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Trollope & Victorian Moral Philosophy

By Jane Nardin

“Nardin’s readings of specific aspects of the novels, readings she contextualizes among those by other recent scholars, are provocative.”

D. Rutenberg, Choice

“Jane Nardin’s interesting and important new book puts discussion of moral action in Anthony Trollope’s novels, especially his later novels, into the context of Victorian moral philosophy. …Trollope and Victorian Moral Philosophy does a great service for us Trollopians who love Trollope but were formerly unfamiliar with the schools of Victorian moral philosophy that provide reference points for Trollope’s moral ideas and sometimes define their terms. Nardin’s book is a valuable addition to Trollope criticism.”

Review (Virginia Tech)

Since the publication of The Moral Trollope by Ruth apRoberts in 1971, literary critics have generally agreed that Trollope’s morality is worthy of study. apRoberts sees Trollope as an early exponent of “situation ethics,” a liberal moralist who believes that traditional principles must always bend to the circumstances of the particular case. For critics like Robert Tracy and Shirley Letwin, however, Trollope is a conservative moralist who believes that good conduct means strict obedience to the conventions of the society into which one is born. Trollope & Victorian Moral Philosophy presents still another view of Trollope’s complex response to the moral philosophy of his era.

The most influential schools of Victorian moral philosophy were Utilitarianism, Intuitionism, and Idealism. Though they shared few assumptions, philosophers of all three schools believed that they could devise a more comprehensive and rational morality than the one their society had inherited: the Stoic–Hebrew–Christian ethical tradition. Realizing that this inherited morality was coming under intense philosophical attack, Trollope moved to define and defend it in a series of novels written during the 1870s and 1880s. In this examination of nine of these novels, we find that Trollope rejects the belief in reason and innovation upon which most Victorian moral philosophy rests. He affirms the central principles of Britain’s ethical tradition, but he uses those principles as the basis for a critique of its laws and customs.

Trollope & Victorian Moral Philosophy suggests that, although few critics have anything complimentary to say about his capacity for abstract thought, Trollope was nevertheless an interesting moralist, whose novels influenced the contemporary debate.

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Hardcover
978-0-8214-1139-1
Retail price: $39.95, S.
Release date: March 1996
172 pages
Rights:  World

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