Announcing This Year’s Winner of the NAVSA Best Book of the Year Prize:
Talia Schaffer, Romance’s Rival: Familiar Marriage in Victorian Fiction (Oxford UP, 2016).
We are delighted to announce that the winner of the NAVSA Best Book of the Year for 2016 is Talia Schaffer’s Romance’s Rival: Familiar Marriage in Victorian Fiction. Schaffer’s book reveals how seldom romantic love stories in nineteenth-century novels culminate in the sort of erotic and isolating marriage that literary criticism by the twentieth-century had, like its sponsoring culture, come to embrace as normative. Often the individualist impulses of erotic desire are instead set in dynamic, mutually defining opposition to the communitarian urges of familiar affection, which afford the basis of marital resolution.
Schaffer’s exploration of the romantic/familiar antithesis in Victorian fiction turns a number of widely accepted paradigms inside out. The book’s impressive period breadth gives us important insights into the history of affective life, vivified through splendid readings of canonical novels and popular fiction. The final chapter, moreover, delivers shocks of current recognition by demonstrating that even the “familiar” marriage plot was rigged to fail by novelists expressing a kind of feminist despair at the end of the century. The book thus has broad implications for not only our ideas of family formation but also our understanding of the novel’s role in shaping varieties of subjectivity, individuality, and ambition previously under-regarded. Familiarizing us afresh with marriage’s polyvalence in the Victorian novel, Schaffer defamiliarizes much that we thought we knew about the period.
Talia Schaffer is Professor of English at Queens College CUNY and the Graduate Center CUNY. In addition to Romance’s Rival: Familiar Marriage in Victorian Fiction (2016), Schaffer is the author of Novel Craft: Victorian Domestic Handicraft and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (2011) and The Forgotten Female Aesthetes; Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England (2001).
She has co-edited a special issue of Victorian Review, “Extending Families,” with Kelly Hager (2013); published a collection called Literature and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (2006); produced a scholarly edition of Lucas Malet’s 1901 novel, The History of Sir Richard Calmady (2003); and co-edited Women and British Aestheticism with Kathy A. Psomiades (1999). Schaffer has published widely on Victorian familial and marital norms, disability studies, women writers, material culture, popular fiction, and aestheticism. She is currently working on a project that adapts the feminist philosophy of “ethics of care” into a method for reading social relations in Victorian fiction.
Catherine Gallagher is Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, where she held the Ida May and William J. Eggers Chair in English until her retirement in 2013. She has published many articles and several books in the fields of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British fiction; she has also published work on theories of the novel and methods of exploring cultural and intellectual history through an attention to literary form.
She was a founding member of the editorial board of the journal Representations and served as its co-editor for ten years. Her latest book, Telling It Like It Wasn’t: The Counterfactual Imagination in History and Literature, is forthcoming from Chicago University Press.
Herbert Tucker, John C. Coleman Professor of English at the University of Virginia and a NAVSA charter member, has written books on Browning, Tennyson, and the nineteeth-century epic poem, along with scores of articles and reviews about Victorian topics.
His editorial work includes a teaching anthology and several collections of critical scholarship by sundry hands; he serves as associate editor for New Literary History and series editor in Victorian literature and culture for the University of Virginia Press.