Habit in the English Novel, 1850-1900: Lived Environments, Practices of the Self (BOK)
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The ancient philosophical concept of habit fixated and unsettled the Victorians in profoundly new ways, as advances in physiology and evolutionary theory sparked far-reaching debates about the threat of automatism and the proper mental training of the will. This book suggests that nineteenth-century novelists not only echoed these debates but intervened in them in unique, transformative, and strikingly modern ways. In attending closely to the enabling, generative potential of habit and its role in the creation of new perceptions and social identities, novelists from Dickens to James bequeathed a far more complex conception of the category than has yet been acknowledged, allowing for a rich phenomenology of the unpredictable, changeable modes of modern existence. Habit in the English Novel, 1850-1900 reconsiders what we have come to assume about the Victorian novel, including our own critical habits, in the wake of Freud and cultural modernism.