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  • Sean O'Toole (a1)

Despite a rich and varied critical heritage, reception of George Meredith's 1879 novel The Egoist has tended to rely on the author's Essay on Comedy as a key to unlocking the novel's many mysteries. Written just two years earlier as a lecture for the London Institution, the Essay would seem an apt place to start. A blueprint for Meredith's attempt to offer a revitalizing corrective for the tedium of everyday life, that “monstrous monotonousness” of convention and complacency that enfolds us (The Egoist 5; Prelude), the Essay helps explain, and thus rehabilitate, the novel's apparent oddities: its fragmentary and discontinuous narration, dynamic conception of character, and infamous, ostentatious stylistic eccentricities, to name but the most obvious anomalies. The parallels between the Essay and the novel are well rehearsed by critics; indeed, this connection has served both the novel and critics well, generating a range of forceful and illuminating readings. It must be said, too, that the critical tendency to see The Egoist as an outgrowth of the Essay represents a significant improvement over the main thrust of contemporary reviews of the novel, in which the four most frequently used words were “affectation,” “obscurity,” “artificiality,” and “weakness” (I. Williams 11; Lucas 3).

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Bergson Henri. “Laughter.” 1900. Comedy. Ed. Sypher Wylie. Trans. Presses Universitaires de France. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1956. 59190. Print.
Bourdieu Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. Nice Richard. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977. Print.
Brownstein Rachel M.Becoming a Heroine: Reading About Women in Novels. New York: Columbia UP, 1982. Print.
Cohen William A.Embodied: Victorian Literature and the Senses. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2009. Print.
Dames Nicholas. The Physiology of the Novel: Reading, Neural Science, and the Form of Victorian Fiction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.
Freud Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Ed. and Trans. Strachey James et al. . 24 vols. London: Hogarth, 1955–74. Print.
Gossy Mary S.Freudian Slips: Woman, Writing, the Foreign Tongue. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995. Print.
James William. The Principles of Psychology. 1890. 3 vols. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1981. Print.
Jones Ernest. “The Psychopathology of Everyday Life.” American Journal of Psychology 22.4 (Oct. 1911): 477527. Print.
Kelvin Norman. A Troubled Eden: Nature and Society in the Works of George Meredith. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1961. Print.
Lucas John. “Meredith's Reputation.” In Meredith Now: Some Critical Essays. Ed. Fletcher Ian. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971. 113. Print.
Mauss Marcel. “Techniques of the Body.” 1934. Trans. Brewster Ben. Economy and Society 2.1 (Feb. 1973): 7088. Print.
Mayo Robert D.The Egoist and the Willow Pattern.” The Egoist. Ed. Adams Robert M.. New York: Norton, 1979. 453–60. Print.
Meredith George. The Egoist: A Comedy in Narrative. 1879. Ed. Adams Robert M.. New York: Norton, 1979. Print.
Meredith George. “An Essay on Comedy.” 1877. Comedy. Ed. Sypher Wylie. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1956. 157. Print.
Meredith George. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel: A History of Father and Son. 1859. London: Penguin, 1998. Print.
O'Hara Patricia. “Primitive Marriage, Civilized Marriage: Anthropology, Mythology, and The Egoist.” Victorian Literature and Culture 20 (1992): 124. Print.
O'Hara Patricia. “‘The Willow Pattern That We Knew’: The Victorian Literature of Blue Willow.” Victorian Studies 36.4 (Summer 1993): 421–43. Print.
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Stevenson Lionel. The Ordeal of George Meredith. New York: Scribner's, 1953. Print.
Stewart Maaja A., and Casal Elvira. “Clara Middleton: Wit and Pattern in The Egoist.” Studies in the Novel 12.3 (Fall 1980): 210–27. Print.
Stone Donald. Novelists in a Changing World: Meredith, James, and the Transformation of English Fiction in the 1880's. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1972. Print.
Sundell Michael C. “The Functions of Flitch in The Egoist.” The Egoist. Ed. Adams Robert M.. New York: Norton, 1979. 524–31. Print.
Tougaw Jason Daniel. Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
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Wilde Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” The Artist as Critic: The Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde. Ed. Ellmann Richard. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1968. 290320. Print.
Williams Carolyn. “Natural Selection and Narrative Form in The Egoist.” Victorian Studies 27.1 (Autumn 1983): 5379. Print.
Williams Ioan. Introduction. Meredith: The Critical Heritage. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971. 125. Print.
Wilt Judith. The Readable People of George Meredith. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1975. Print.
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Victorian Literature and Culture
  • ISSN: 1060-1503
  • EISSN: 1470-1553
  • URL: /core/journals/victorian-literature-and-culture
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