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Interpretation, Genre, Revaluation: The Conventions of Romance and the Romance of Religion in Benjamin Disraeli's Lothair

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Abstract:

By offering a rereading and revaluation of Disraeli's Lothair, this essay attempts to account for the unjustified neglect of Disraeli's novels and proposes a way of reading them that will reveal their artistic merit. Lothair should be read not as a realist novel in the tradition of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope but as a romance in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott's Waverley and Old Mortality. Drawing on Northrop Frye's influ ential account of romance in The Secular Scripture, the article offers a generic perspective from which Lothair can be interpreted as Disraeli's adaptation to contemporary society of Scott's groundbreaking historical romances, which explored Scotland's transformation into a modern society. Using similar narrative conventions and character types, Disraeli explores the contemporary struggle between the forces of tradition, represented by the Anglican and Catholic churches and their representatives, and the modern forces of revolutionary nationalism represented by Garibaldi's struggle to unify Italy by wresting secular power from the Papacy. Lothair thus resembles a typical Scott hero, a “man in the middle” between the forces of tradition and change.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7756/dsa.043.009.187-208

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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  • Founded in 1970, the centennial anniversary of Dickens's death, DSA has been published since 1980 by AMS Press in cooperation with the Ph.D. program in English of the City University of New York and in association with the Graduate Center, CUNY and Queens College, CUNY. Besides presenting articles exploring the wide range of Dickens''s interests and talents, DSA also includes essays on other mid- and late- nineteenth-century authors and on the history and aesthetics of the period's fiction. In addition, each volume contains a substantial review article examining a prior year's scholarship on Dickens, and DSA occasionally publishes surveys of work on other Victorian writers, as well as review essays considering specialized studies of subjects in Victorian fiction. The editors seek to offer essays of "the most diverse kinds," those employing innovative as well as traditional approaches.
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