Monica C. Lewis, "Anthony Trollope and the Voicing of Victorian Fiction" (pp. 141––165)
Although critics have read the intrusive nature of Anthony Trollope's narrators as everything from suicidal to cordial, little to no attention has been paid to the larger context in which these intrusions would have been voiced or to Trollope's carefully constructed relationship to the interpretive community upon which his literary livelihood depended. Well aware that his novels would be read aloud to his Victorian audience, Trollope adopted a particularly "modern" approach to the questions of audience and reception. At the moment of articulation, this essay argues, the voice of Trollope's author-narrator welcomes his listeners into a critical dialogue that calls into question not only the aesthetics of fiction but also moral and ethical codes, the construction of "character," and an increasingly modern world. Trollope's novel of life in the employ of the civil service, The Three Clerks (1858), is a heretofore-neglected case in point. The novel's protagonist, Charley Tudor, is both a clerk and an aspiring novelist; the reading aloud of his manuscript to an assembled company of admirers serves as a showcase for the ways in which Trollope expected his audience to engage with his own narratives. Drawing upon theories of reading and reception, recent scholarship on nineteenth-century reading practices and Trollope's negotiation of modernity, and evidence from Trollope's own experiences as a reader and writer, this essay exposes Anthony Trollope as a novelist whose ambivalent engagement with modernity found its expression in the dialogical space he created among author-narrator, reader, and listener.
- ©© 2010 by The Regents of the University of California