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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The classics, taught in schools, supported by the church, and advanced by scholarship, played a part in the formation of different sorts of (mainly) respectable identities in the Victorian period, especially as related to profession, class, religion, and gender. When characters in novels studied the classics, alluded to antiquity, or quoted ancient literature, they also said something—revealed, implied, contested, or pretended to something—about these identities. Sometimes the classics were used to draw sharp boundaries around groups, to create solidarity among those within it (or between author and reader) and to exclude those outside, but much of the time the novelists were interested in more complex situations. The meaning and application of ‘gentleman’ and ‘lady’ were under great pressure in the period as new groups sought to redefine them in order to share in the status. The practices of classical allusion, as represented in Victorian novels, served as a means to sound these ambiguities.

Keywords: Allusion, Classics, Class, Charles Dickens, Education, George Eliot, Gender, Gentlemanliness, Greek, Thomas Hardy, Latin, Respectability

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