Serious Play

Serious Play
The Cultural Form of the Nineteenth-Century Realist Novel

J. Jeffrey Franklin

256 pages | 6 x 9
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9781512803303 | Buy from De Gruyter $79.95 | €69.95 | £70.50
This book is available under special arrangement from our European publishing partner De Gruyter.
An Anniversary Collection volume
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"Serious Play provides a rich, multilayered argument that engages and contributes to contemporary theory and cultural studies."—Victorian Studies
Queen Victoria was famously not amused, and the age to which she gave her name is not generally known for its playfulness or sense of fun. But play was pervasive in Victorian society and in the realist novels that were central to that culture. In Serious Play, J. Jeffrey Franklin examines the role of play in three areas—gambling, theatricality, and aesthetic theory—demonstrating in the process how the realist novel served as a vehicle for play while play in turn entered and helped define the form of realism.

Franklin's analysis focuses on close readings of eight novels by Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, William Thackeray, and Anthony Trollope, as well as works by Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, John Ruskin, and Matthew Arnold. The readings are grounded in histories and cultural studies of gambling, recreation, the stock market, theater and antitheatrical prejudice, the performance of gender roles, working-class protest, aesthetic theory, and especially the novel genre itself. While the treatments of gambling, theatricality, and aesthetics are specific, the book shows how play links each of them to broader, culturally defining issues that Victorian writings frequently express: values versus value, the artificial versus the authentic, and the real versus the illusory.

Serious Play demonstrates, as no previous study has, how play functioned as a linchpin concept within the discursive infrastructure of Victorian society, challenging critical commonplaces about the unplayfulness of the Victorians and the ideological conservatism of realism.

"Serious Play provides a completely new insight into the Victorian realist novel. . . . All the major theories of play are subjected to penetrating analysis through which their respective shortcomings and their historical conditioning are highlighted, so that the book can also be read as one of the most comprehensive assessments of modern play theories to date." —Wolfgang Iser

J. Jeffrey Franklin Is Professor of English and Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Experiences at the University of Colorado, Denver.

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