Brute Meaning
Essays in Materialist Criticism from Dickens to Hitchcock

David Trotter

Selected Essays 9

Legenda

28 September 2020  •  348pp

ISBN: 978-1-781889-19-0 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-781889-20-6 (paperback, 22 January 2023)  •  RRP £16.99, $22.99, €20.49

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The essays collected in this volume trace the evolution over a period of thirty years of a critical approach resembling what would now be described as the ‘new materialism’. These essays insist that literature and film are never more vital than in their enactment of the ‘brute meaning’ Maurice Merleau-Ponty once found in the work of Paul Cézanne: the crude sense we make, as creatures exercising an always already dispersed and relational agency, of the world we inhabit. This is a materialist criticism attentive at once to the forms brute meaning has taken in fiction and film, and to the history of its constitution by or in species, class, racial, and sexual difference.

The essays in Part I concern renderings of embodied experience in fiction by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Radclyffe Hall, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and others; those in Part II, renderings of space in films by D.W. Griffith, John Ford, Jean Renoir, Marcel Carné, Alfred Hitchcock, and others. When the topic demands it, they engage directly with discipline-shaping initiatives from the New Historicism of the 1980s through postcolonial studies to more recent reflections on the ‘posthuman’ condition. Part III pairs old and new essays, one framing a materialist criticism for the 1980s, the other for 2020. The polemical thrust of Brute Meaning is that any materialism worthy of the name must remain resolutely secular in emphasis and tone.

David Trotter is an emeritus professor of English literature at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the British Academy. He has written widely about nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature and culture, and about aspects of the history and theory of media.

Reviews:

  • ‘Not a single essay here but is interesting in its own way. Many, as with ‘Dickens and Frith’ (Essay 4) take a minor topic and make something special from it. The essay on Middlemarch (Essay 5) seems a major contribution... All the essays are likeable and thoughtful, exhibiting an astonishingly wide reading.’ — Jeremy Tambling, Modern Language Review 117.3, July 2022, 474-76 (full text online)

Contents:

1-14
Introduction
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.5
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17-35
Chapter 1 the New Historicism and the Psychopathology of Everyday Modern Life
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.6
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36-47
Chapter 2 Household Clearances in Victorian Fiction
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.7
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48-62
Chapter 3 Dickens’s Idle Men
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.8
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63-72
Chapter 4 Dickens and Frith
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.9
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73-90
Chapter 5 Space, Movement, and Sexual Feeling in Middlemarch
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.10
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91-103
Chapter 6 On the Nail: Functional Objects in Thomas Hardy’s the Woodlanders
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.11
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104-121
Chapter 7 Gissing’s Fry-Ups: Mess, Waste, and the Definition of Working-Class Culture
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.12
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122-136
Chapter 8 Lesbians Before Lesbianism: Sexual Identity in Early Twentieth-Century British Fiction
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.13
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137-153
Chapter 9 Feminist Nausea
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.14
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154-162
Chapter 10 Dis-Enablement: Subject and Method in the Modernist Short Story
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.15
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163-174
Chapter 11 Fascination and Nausea: Finding Out the Hard-Boiled Way
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.16
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175-194
Chapter 12 Fanon’s Nausea
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.17
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197-213
Chapter 13 the Space Beside: Lateral Exposition, Gender, and Urban Narrative Space in D. W. Griffith’s Biograph Films
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.18
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214-227
Chapter 14 Come-Hither Looks: the Hollywood Vamp and the Function of Cinema
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.19
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228-242
Chapter 15 Representing Connection: A Multimedia Approach To Colonial Film, 1918–1939
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.20
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243-260
Chapter 16 the Woman in the Plastic Mackintosh: Sexuality, Material Substance, and Narrative Space in 1930s Film
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.21
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261-269
Chapter 17 Shakespeare in Tombstone: Stanley Cavell Goes West
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.22
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270-278
Chapter 18 Hitchcock’s Threshold Moments
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.23
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281-290
Chapter 19 Modernism and Empire: Reading the Waste Land
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.24
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291-304
Chapter 20 A Media Theory Approach To Representations of ‘Nervous Illness’ in the Long Nineteenth Century
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.25
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305-324
Chapter 21 Posthuman? Animal Corpses, Aeroplanes, and Very High Frequencies in the Work of Valentine Ackland and Sylvia Townsend Warner
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.26
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325-328
List of Publications
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.27
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329-336
Index
David Trotter
doi:10.2307/j.ctv1wsgqq7.28
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Bibliography entry:

Trotter, David, Brute Meaning: Essays in Materialist Criticism from Dickens to Hitchcock, Selected Essays, 9 (Legenda, 2020)

First footnote reference: 35 Brute Meaning: Essays in Materialist Criticism from Dickens to Hitchcock, david Trotter, Selected Essays, 9 (Legenda, 2020), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Trotter, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Trotter, David. 2020. Brute Meaning: Essays in Materialist Criticism from Dickens to Hitchcock, Selected Essays, 9 (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Trotter 2020: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Trotter 2020: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)


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