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Elizabeth Gaskell and the Art of the Short Story


Edited By Francesco Marroni, Renzo D'Agnillo and Massimo Verzella

This volume presents a collection of original and interconnected essays which aim to chart Elizabeth Gaskell’s literary imagination by focusing on diverse aspects of her short stories. It includes the papers read at the conference on «Elizabeth Gaskell and the art of the short story», organized by the Centre for Victorian and Edwardian Studies (CUSVE, «G. d’Annunzio» University, Pescara, 2010), to celebrate the bicentenary of her birth. While offering fresh insights into Gaskell’s shorter fiction, this collection provides an introduction to the many issues that absorbed her literary attention. Most importantly, by considering the growing significance of some neglected aspects of her works and the cultural and ideological context in which she lived, the contributions collectively delineate Gaskell’s artistic tensions, ethical sensibility and social commitment in a rapidly changing world. In their overall critical design, the contributors intend to shed light on the complex web of dialogic suggestions underlying her fiction, while at the same time revealing the extraordinary and multifaceted inventiveness of one of the most important Victorian writers.


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Part 4: Narrative possibilities and intertextual territories


ALLAN C. CHRISTENSEN “Ruth...sick for home”: The Keatsian imagination in the novel of Elizabeth Gaskell* Among the Romantic poets, Wordsworth holds a particular fascination for Elizabeth Gaskell. Margaret Homans thus discusses Gaskell’s pleasure, described in a letter of 1836, as she composes in a “fit place” − “a field gay with bright spring flowers [...] & with lambs” − an es- say now lost on Wordsworth1. In Homans’s interesting analysis Gas- kell is further absorbed at this point in the delight of sharing with her infant daughter Marianne “the nonsymbolic language of infancy”2. Yet a tension exists between the joy of that direct, nonsymbolic com- munication and the need to write about Wordsworthian joy in a more literary or symbolic language. Gaskell experiences the same tension that she must discern in Wordsworth’s own treatment of the “Babe” and the animals – the “blessed Creatures” – of the “Immortality” ode. In his self-conscious need to speak a literate language, the poet feels alienated from “the call / Ye to each other make”. For Homans the alienation is also typically that of the woman writer, who will not be heard unless she adopts a male language, foreign to her instinctive nature. * An earlier version of this essay appeared in Configuring Romanticism, ed. Theo D’haen, Peter Liebregts and Wim Tigges, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2003, pp. 105-122. 1 J.A.V. Chapple and Arthur Pollard (eds.), The Letters of Mrs Gaskell, Manches- ter and New York, Mandolin, 1997, p. 7. The editors describe Gaskell’s project as an imitation of Wordsworth, but she...

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