With the birth in Britain of a widespread culture of novel reviewing in the nineteenth century came a practice that has been ignored or derided since the Victorian period ended: protracted excerpting, or the printing of long tranches of the text under review. This is not only an injustice but a misunderstanding of the function of this neglected and abjected form of citation. By turning to a variety of Victorian critics and theorists, the excerpt emerges as a highly developed tool for the analysis of long narrative. The protracted excerpt exists as a way of producing for the reader, in miniature, the affective processes involved in the work as a whole. It is intended as a microcosm of the temporal workings of long narrative. Rather than offering the “see, it works this way” epistemology of close reading, it functions in Victorian reviewing and novel theory as “see, it feels this way”—the science of the excerpt is to find the right passage of text to produce a series of affects identical in nature, if abbreviated in time, to the series of affects the novel under consideration produces. Unlike the censorious critics interested only in the moral effects of fiction or the lazy critics interested only in filling space, the Victorian reviewer emerges as centrally concerned with the novel as a machine for particular affects—and with how (and with what distortions) those affects, emerging over long periods of time and text, could be reproduced in miniature.
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Nicholas Dames; On the Protocols of Victorian Citation. Novel 1 August 2009; 42 (2): 326–331. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-022
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