Professional Men and Domesticity in the Mid-Victorian Novel

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Examines the ethos of intellectual work for men in a set of novels strongly influenced by Thomas Carlyle, the Victorian Age’s prime proponent of work. It questions the longstanding tradition of regarding the 19th century as a time when a stern work ethic flourished in successful opposition to gentler, female-identified values of domesticity and nurture. This book argues that an over-emphasis on domesticity as the source of virtue and happiness led to a devaluation of the satisfactions to be found in intellectual and vocational arenas separate from domestic life.


“The primary writers Fasick chooses to consider are Dickens, Thackeray, Kingsley, Gaskell and Eliot – a particular grouping that allows her to explore gender influence on attitudes to the tensions between professional and domestic life. Thus, while exploring a topic outside recent scholarship’s emphasis on gender, race and class, she by no means leaves gender or class behind. Instead, she brings her focus on work to bear on standard and sometimes facile readings of the male writers in her scope, challenging automatic assumptions that Victorian values always operated within gender bounds….Fasick gives fresh readings to some issues in the major novels inevitable for this topic… while also showing an impressive familiarity with less canonical texts… against a wide range of literary and cultural criticism, both traditional and theoretical. She consistently distills divergent critical opinions to excellent effect in preparing for her own interpretations.” – Margaret Bozenna Goscilo, Visiting Lecturer, University of Pittsburgh

“Dr/ Fasick explores brilliantly the work ethic of Thomas Carlyle, one of the 19th century’s most influential thinkers. Impressive in its comprehensiveness, this book is essential reading for those teaching Victorian literature – or for those just interested in the great authors of the nineteenth century ... Dr. Fasick is a careful researcher and an insightful reader. I recommend her book strongly; it is a must for Victorian scholars.” – Professor Sandra M. Pearce, Minnesota State University Moorhead

"The private life - most clearly represented by marriage and the home - becomes the benchmark for what is useful, most worthwhile; in essence, one's work matters most when it mimics the sympathy and insularity of the household. Dr. Fasick traces this dynamic through three principal vocations - authorship, priesthood, and medicine - and uses the ambiguity of these callings, which are neither fully public nor wholly private, to chart this model's influence on the evolving definition of work ... The central claim of this book merits attention, that the work offers 'a beginning rather than an end.' And it is in this spirit that this work should be approached - as a brief survey, a provocation, a call to future work." - Allen J. Salerno, Victorian Studies, Spring 2005

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Preface by Claudia Nelson
Portrait of the Writer as a Young Waif: Authorship in Dickens, Thackeray, and Kingsley
“The Clerical Sex”: The Hero as Priest
The Hero as Healer
Love and Work in Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend
Bibliography; Index

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