Thursday, March 28, 2024


New from Cornell University Press: Misrecognitions: Plotting Capital in the Victorian Novel by Ben Parker.

About the book, from the publisher:

Misrecognitions mounts a vigorous defense of the labyrinthine plotting of Victorian novels, notorious for their implausible concluding revelations and coincidences. Critics have long decried Victorian recognition scenes—the reunions and retroactive discoveries of identity that too conveniently bring the story to a close—as regrettable contrivances. Ben Parker counters this view by showing how these recognition scenes offer a critique of the social and economic misrecognitions at work in nineteenth-century capitalism.

Through a meticulous analysis of novels by Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Henry James, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, Misrecognitions tracks how the Victorian novel translates the financialized abstractions of capital into dramas of buried secrets and disguised relations. Drawing on Karl Marx's account of commodity fetishism and reification, Parker contends that, by configuring capital as an enigma to be unveiled, Victorian recognition scenes dramatize the inversions of agency and temporality that are repressed in capitalist production. In plotting capital as an agent of opacity and misdirection, Victorian novels and their characteristic dialectic of illusion and illumination reveal the plot hole in capitalism itself.
--Marshal Zeringue