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Revisiting the Political Novel

Revisiting the Political Novel

(p.78) Chapter Three Revisiting the Political Novel
Bleak Liberalism
Amanda Anderson
University of Chicago Press

This chapter reconsiders the role of argument as a distinctive formal feature within the genre of the nineteenth-and twentieth-century political novel. Noticeable most within interludes of ideological debate among characters, dialogical argumentation characterizes the political novel from its inception. This chapter argues for the formal specificity of such forms of argument, which cannot simply be classed as conventional dialogue. Additionally, in its focus on the lived relation to ideology and commitment, the political novel dramatizes the challenges associated with emergent forms of political self-consciousness. Readings of Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and E. M. Forster’s Howards End provide the basis for a set of claims about the aesthetic force and contours of argument and lived commitment within specific novelistic projects. Special attention is paid not only to the significance of argument, but also to its perceived limits, and to the limits of politics as such, a haunting concern of liberalism that distinguishes it from conservatism.

Keywords:   argument, political novel, debate, dialogue, ideology, commitment, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, E. M. Forster, liberalism

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