Edited By Francesco Marroni, Renzo D'Agnillo and Massimo Verzella
Part 1: Unweaving the text:a new language for a new society
Part 1: Unweaving the text: a new language for a new society ALAN SHELSTON Exploring the boundaries in Elizabeth Gaskell’s shorter fiction Jenny Uglow subtitled her biography of Elizabeth Gaskell “A Habit of Stories”1. Gaskell was the most prolific of the canonical nineteenth- century novelists in her commitment to the story form. In her case the term ‘story’ has to include writing of a few pages at one end of the spectrum, and novellas like Cousin Phillis or “A Dark Night’s Work” at the other. In an informal listing of Gaskell’s works over forty of her titles are of works in the story or imaginative essay form. Many of them were contributions to Dickens’s two journals, Household Words and All the Year Round, and her early work largely follows his agenda of providing improving reading for the literate working class. In her later work for All the Year Round she seems to have felt freer to estab- lish her own priorities, although here too with her stories of crime and sensation she can be said to have been following popular taste. Work- ing with Dickens had both positives and disadvantages. The speed of production in his operations meant that the stories were often written quickly and submitted for his approval. Always determined to protect the integrity of her full-length novels she could be more casual where the stories were concerned. They rarely aspired to what might be called the high aesthetic line which was to be a development in...
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