Moral Taste: Aesthetics, Subjectivity, and Social Power in the Nineteenth-Century Novel

Marjorie Garson

© 2007

One of the particular concerns of the Victorians was the notion of 'taste' and the idea that good taste in any field - clothing, decor, landscape, music, art, even food - meant good taste in all, and that tastefulness was a reliable sign of moral sensitivity, indeed of national, even racial, quality. Moral Taste is a study of the ideological work done by the equation of good taste and moral refinement in a selection of nineteenth-century writings.

Drawing on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu, Marjorie Garson discusses a number of Victorian texts that treat aesthetic refinement as an essential mark of proper middle-class subjectivity. She situates each text in its historical moment and considers it in the light of contemporary anxieties, providing insights into why certain ways of representing and endorsing tastefulness remained serviceable for many decades. In addition, this study demonstrates how the discourse of taste engenders a wider discourse about middle-class subjectivity and entitlement, national character, and racial identity in the period.

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  • Page Count: 544 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 8.9in
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Quick Overview

Moral Taste is a study of the ideological work done by the equation of good taste and moral refinement in a selection of nineteenth-century writings.

Moral Taste: Aesthetics, Subjectivity, and Social Power in the Nineteenth-Century Novel

Marjorie Garson

© 2007

One of the particular concerns of the Victorians was the notion of 'taste' and the idea that good taste in any field - clothing, decor, landscape, music, art, even food - meant good taste in all, and that tastefulness was a reliable sign of moral sensitivity, indeed of national, even racial, quality. Moral Taste is a study of the ideological work done by the equation of good taste and moral refinement in a selection of nineteenth-century writings.

Drawing on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu, Marjorie Garson discusses a number of Victorian texts that treat aesthetic refinement as an essential mark of proper middle-class subjectivity. She situates each text in its historical moment and considers it in the light of contemporary anxieties, providing insights into why certain ways of representing and endorsing tastefulness remained serviceable for many decades. In addition, this study demonstrates how the discourse of taste engenders a wider discourse about middle-class subjectivity and entitlement, national character, and racial identity in the period.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 544 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 8.9in
  • Reviews

    'Garson's challenging and perceptive analysis opens up new ways of looking at the novel ... it well deserves attention, with each individual chapter able to stand alone, offering fresh readings of the particular fictions discussed, as well as being part of the whole project.'
    Shirley Foster, The Gaskell Journal

    'Moral Taste is especially strong when addressing the nuances of gendered taste - and how notions of taste that seem to concretize gender distinctions can often complicate them ... this superior study is essential reading for scholars investigating nineteenth-century aesthetics, material culture, spatial theory, or the codification of morality in literature.'
    Elizabeth Bridgham, Dickens Quarterly

    'Easy classification would fail to do justice to the richness here on offer. Garson has spent a lifetime in the company of her texts, and she speaks with a voice of intimate acquaintance and perfect authority ... This book's deeply satisfying readings will make it valuable to readers from undergraduates in their first exposure to texts to advanced scholars seeking new perspectives.'
    D.L. Patey, Choice
  • Author Information

    Marjorie Garson is a professor emerita in the Department of English at the University of Toronto.

  • Table of contents

    Acknowledgments

    Introduction

    1. The Discourse of Taste in Waverley
    2. A Room with a Viewer: The Evolution of a Victorian Topos
    3. Resources and Performance: Mansfield Park and Emma
    4. The Improvement of the Estate: J.C. Loudon and Some Spaces in Dickens
    5. Charlotte Brontë: Sweetness and Colour
    6. North and South: ‘Stately Simplicity’
    7. The Importance of Being Consistent: Culture and Commerce in Middlemarch

    Conclusion

    Notes

    Bibliography

    Index

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