Collection: Vexed Encounters with 19th-century Fiction

full name / name of organization: 
Leslie Haynsworth/University of South Carolina
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Novels, says Samuel Johnson in an essay in the Rambler, "are written chiefly to the young, the ignorant, the idle, to whom they serve as lectures of conduct, and instructions into life." Nineteenth-century novels shouldered that didactic mission with particular force and authority. To what extent do they still exert that authority over us today?

We are seeking 300-500-word abstracts for personal essays about vexed encounters with nineteenth-century fiction. Specific examples might include overidentification with a particular character; internalization of a particular character or plotline as a cautionary tale; a sense of being rebuked or oppressed by a particular novelist; a sense of reverence that's deeply entangled with frustration at a novel's sexism, racism, or classism; or a sense of having been groomed by nineteenth-century fiction to inhabit a world that simply doesn't exist.

While scholarly approaches to the novels themselves are welcome, these should be first-person essays, more in the style of creative nonfiction than traditional scholarship. For a sample, see

We welcome abstracts from scholars, creative writers, and others. Send abstracts by May 1 to Leslie Haynsworth at and Maria LaMonaca at