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The Exhibit in the Text

The Museological Practices of Literature


Caroline Patey and Laura Scuriatti

Interest in collecting and museology has increased exponentially over recent years, both in academic circles and the broader cultural arena, but the relationship between museums, collections and literature has not yet been fully investigated. This book examines some crucial phases of this interaction from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Moving from a time of endless enthusiasm for exhibiting and classifying to the modern period, dominated by turbulence and loss, the essays in this collection investigate changing modes of museology and literary texts that articulate the concepts of display and taxonomy. The writers in this volume move beyond the world of art to address cultural practices at large and demonstrate that the ‘museum fever’ of the past 150 years has been a powerful agent of textuality.
The focus of the book moves from the Victorian authors John Clare, Thomas De Quincey and George Eliot, via Henry James’s precociously modernist concerns, to the twentieth-century crisis of representation and memory embodied in the works of James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov and Samuel Beckett. The essays testify to the thematic and theoretical importance of the encounter between museum and text, which makes a lively comeback in post-modern narrative through the works of A.S. Byatt, Julian Barnes and J.G. Farrell among others.
Contents: Caroline Patey/Laura Scuriatti: Introduction – Béatrice Laurent: The Curiosity Cabinet: Exhibition(ism) in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater – Francesca Cuojati: John Clare: The Poetics and Politics of Taxonomy – Francesca Muscau: Reconsidering George Eliot’s Museum: An Inquiry into the Artificiality of Romola – Joshua Kotzin: ‘Again in the Museum Mood’: Remembering the Museum in Henry James’s The Ambassadors – Caroline Patey: Chapters Hanging on the Wall: Henry James in the Art Gallery – Laura Scuriatti: The Collection as Autobiography, the Autobiography as Collection: Mario Praz’s House of Life – Laura Pelaschiar: Joyce the Museologist: ‘Oxen of the Sun’ as Joyce’s Museum of Language – Will Norman: Unpacking Nabokov’s Library: Historical Materialism and the Private Collection – Mariacristina Cavecchi: From Playwriting to Curatorship: An Investigation into the Status of Beckett’s Stage Objects – Elizabeth C. Denlinger: The Collector in the Collection: Kenneth Lohf’s War Poetry at Home and at the Morgan – Roberta Gefter Wondrich: Possessing Papers: The Quest for the Writer’s Relics from Henry James to A.S. Byatt – Carmen Lara-Rallo: Museums, Collection and Cabinets: ‘Shelf after Shelf after Shelf’ – Mariadele Boccardi: Exploding Taxonomy, Exhibiting Textuality: J.G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur.