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Novel PoliticsDemocratic Imaginations in Nineteenth-Century Fiction$
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Isobel Armstrong

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198793724

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198793724.001.0001

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‘Passionate Thinking’

‘Passionate Thinking’

Four Strategies for Reading

(p.83) 4 ‘Passionate Thinking’
Novel Politics

Isobel Armstrong

Oxford University Press

This chapter presents an exposition of four principles for reading democratic imaginations. First, contemporary with the genesis of the novel, the philosophical Inquiry, open to different logics, is a model for democratic narrative, made in and through narrative form and plot. Second, an experimental poetics of form, as the pressures of Inquiry create generic innovation and question received forms. Third, a concern with subjects at the margins generates a hypersensitive concern with spaces because spatial and social deprivation go together. The quintessential deficit subject is here. Finally, the invariable presence of art objects and aesthetic work in the novel raises questions of representation that have a political valence. The aesthetic has an interrogative force because social critique is immanent in it. The aesthetic questioning raised by the doll’s dressmaker’s presence in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend ends the chapter.

Keywords:   philosophical inquiry, generic innovation, spatial deprivation, aesthetic work, representation, doll’s dressmaker

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