The reviewer reviewed: Lost Causes in Victorian Studies

So, maybe you’ve read my post on going from the dissertation to the book, but you don’t know whether the final outcome is any good.  Lost Causes has gotten several reviews so far–in Novel, Clio, and The Dickens Quarterly–and they’ve all been pretty good, but I’ve been waiting to post much about them before it was reviewed in Victorian Studies.  And look what showed up in my campus mailbox this week: Volume 50, number 2.

Here’s Rick Rylance’s lede:

Jason B. Jones has written a concise, judicious, and lucid book with a forceful argument.  The argument is that despite commitments to historicism, many Victorian writers faced challenges to their assumptions because the past is irretrievable.  Empirically, this irretrievability is because there are inevitable gaps in the historical record; epistemologically, because the past cannot be understood thoroughly enough; and representationally, because realism cannot provide depictions adequate to the complexities of life and circumstance.  Jones’s questions therefore is: what did Victorian writers with historicist inclinations do with the gaps in knowledge, thought, and representation that arise inevitably from this scenario?  It is a good question.

At the end, he also picks up a note that I hope will get some attention when the book’s reviewed in Psychoanalysis, Culture, Society:

 The book ends on a mildly revisionary note about the future of psychoanalytic theory, proposing a readjustment away from the sexuality-led agenda towards “the relationship between time, causality, and being” (101).  This conclusion is as temperate as it is pithy and suggestive.

Relatedly, he explains what I think the point of psychoanalytic criticism might be–that is, why Victorianists should bother with Lacan:

For Jones, the past, shaped in a certain way, seducitvely masks the vertigo induced by our ungrounded psychoanalytic being.  Psychoanalytic method is not about the identification of hidden (or lost) causation, but the exposure of the inevitable gap between representation and the Lacanian “real.”

I’ll return to the four reviews over the next week or two, as they’ve raised a couple of points that deserve explanation.  But, on the whole, I’ve been delighted with the reception my little (134 pages, including index! It’s a bargain, especially when you buy the .pdf version.) book has gotten.

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