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date: 06 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This Introduction explores the vexed term ‘Victorian literary culture’ by revisiting the origins of today’s disciplinary map in the Victorian period. It explains current uneasiness with the idea of ‘the literary’ by retracing its associations with the humanist writings of Arnold and Leavis and the subsequent reaction against humanism which propelled cultural studies, critical theory, and contemporary interdisciplinarity. It argues for the reintegration and re-evaluation of the ideas of ‘the literary’ and ‘literary culture’ into prevailing interdisciplinary practice and defences of the arts and humanities. This should not signal a return to a naïve humanism, apoliticism, or ahistoricism but can emerge from the ‘hermeneutics of integrity’ that John sees as prevalent in today’s Victorian studies. As literary culture has provided Victorian studies with much of its base as well as its baggage, it is important to allow the prodigal idea of the literary to rebalance our academic and public conversations.

Keywords: Victorian literary culture, literary culture, the literary, interdisciplinarity, Victorian studies, Matthew Arnold, F. R. Leavis, hermeneutics of integrity, Isobel Armstrong

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