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Victorian AfterlivesThe Shaping of Influence in Nineteenth-Century Literature$
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Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198187271

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187271.001.0001

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(p.342) Afterword
Victorian Afterlives

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Reading, in Proust's view, is both intrinsically valuable and intrinsically inadequate, ‘essential yet limited’, because although literature introduces us to new ways of looking at the world, it does not constitute the world. Books can awaken us to the life of the mind, but they cannot take its place. Thus, a good book, carefully read, is both a fulfilment of and an incitement to imaginative life. In its end is our beginning. This can also be true of the way writers read one another. If Goethe was right to think that one proof of genius is its ‘posthumous productivity’, then the Victorian age has some claim to being as noisily and messily productive since it ended as it was while it lasted. Victorian ideas of human and literary succession, ascendancy, and sway have continued to shape later ways of thinking and writing.

Keywords:   Proust, reading, books, writers, Goethe, Victorian age

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