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Voice and the Victorian Storyteller
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  • Page extent: 266 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.56 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 823.80926
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: n/a
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Storytelling
    • English fiction--19th century--History and criticism
    • Voice in literature

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521851930 | ISBN-10: 0521851939)

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$134.00 (C)

The nineteenth-century novel has always been regarded as a literary form pre-eminently occupied with the written word, but Ivan Kreilkamp shows it was deeply marked by and engaged with vocal performances and the preservation and representation of speech. He offers a detailed account of the many ways Victorian literature and culture represented the human voice, from political speeches, governesses' tales, shorthand manuals, and staged authorial performances in the early- and mid-century, to mechanically reproducible voice at the end of the century. Through readings of Charlotte Brontë, Browning, Carlyle, Conrad, Dickens, Disraeli and Gaskell, Kreilkamp reevaluates critical assumptions about the cultural meanings of storytelling, and shows that the figure of the oral storyteller, rather than disappearing among readers' preference for printed texts, persisted as a character and a function within the novel. This innovative study will change the way readers consider the Victorian novel and its many ways of telling stories.


1. 'The best man of all': mythologies of the storyteller; 2. When good speech acts go bad: the voice of industrial fiction; 3. Speech on paper: Charles Dickens, Victorian phonography, and the reform of writing; 4. 'Done to death': Dickens and the author's voice; 5. Unuttered: withheld speech in Jane Eyre and Villette; 6. 'Hell's masterpiece of print': voice, face, and print in The Ring and the Book; 7. A voice without a body: the phonographic logic of Heart of Darkness.

Prize Winner

First Book Prize, Midwest Victorian Studies Association


"Kreilkamp writes with a clarity and poise I wish were more common. Voice and the Victorian Storyteller is surely one of the strongest books yet produced under the auspices of the recent turn toward media and technology in Victorian studies."
-James Buzard, Novel

"...Kreilkamp writes so well, and with such critical acumen, that any reader passionate about fiction will find interest in even the finer points."
Publishers Weekly

"...exciting and suggestive analysis."
-Daniel Karlin, Times Literary Supplement

"This is a broadly persuasive and significant contribution to the study of Victorian literature."
-Jakob Lothe, Review of English Studies

"Kreilkamp provides a number of compelling perspectives on literary engagements with voice in the Victorian era. An important mediation between critical work like Eric Griffith's The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry (1989) and John Picker's Victorian Soundscapes (2003), Voice and the Victorian Storyteller gives students of nineteenth-century literature a number of fascinating points of departure. "
-Andrew M. Stauffer, Victorian Poetry

"[Among] the most important of this year's books...Subtle and careful readings coordinated with technical and cultural developments mark this study."
-Elizabeth Helsinger, "Recent Studies in the Nineteenth Century," Studies in English Literature

"Both corrects oversimplified accounts of 'voice' and makes a strong contribution to Victorian studies generally...Recommended."
-M. E. Burstein Choice

"Kreilkamp accomplishes [his aims] through a series of strong, clear readings. [He] pursues his theme with care and acuity... A rich, intelligent book."
-Matthew Reynolds, Victorian Studies

"As Kreilkamp’s argument becomes a compelling and even perhaps an undeniable one...The book contributes towards a greater understanding of the effects that key Victorian innovations in the fields of speech and print had on the novels produced in that time."
-Oliver Teale, Loughborough University, Modern Language Review

"Kreilkamp achieves an unmystified yet powerful storytelling posture in this elegantly written text whose own aural effects testify to a trustworthy author....This excellent study ...attests to the capacity of a good, rich, detailed historical account to exceed its own aims and bounds."
-Ilana Blumberg, Michigan State University, Studies in the Novel

"In Kreilkamp's hands this story of the storyteller moves with assurance and sparkles with insight."
-Judith Wilt, Boston College, Modern Philology

"Subtle and careful readings coordinated with technical and cultural developments mark this study."
Elizabeth Helsinger, Studies in English Literature

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