In this ambitious and lucid study, Carolyn Lesjak adds her voice to the critics seeking to recuperate that perennially maligned aesthetic modality: nineteenth-century novelistic realism. For Lesjak, the special contemporary salience of realism lies in its imaginative response to the privatization of the commons: those shared-use lands whose enclosure remade the British countryside, curtailed forms of traditional life, and thrust a dispossessed populace into an urban, capitalist modernity. As her title underscores, we, too, live in the “afterlife” of Britain’s enclosure. Not only has the remaking of the country/city nexus and its attendant expropriations been recapitulated around the globe, but the resulting ecological consequences of deforestation and mineral extraction lie near the heart of the contemporary climate crisis. While I have questions about several of its local argumentative moves, The Afterlife of Enclosure: British Realism, Character, and the Commons is a powerful and even inspiring study that demonstrates the continuing...
Review: The Afterlife of Enclosure: British Realism, Character, and the Commons, by Carolyn Lesjak
Mark Allison is Ben T. Spencer Professor and Chair of the Department of English at Ohio Wesleyan University. He is most recently the author of Imagining Socialism: Aesthetics, Anti-politics, and Literature in Britain, 1817–1918 (2021) and is currently working on a project on nineteenth-century utopian literature.
Mark Allison; Review: The Afterlife of Enclosure: British Realism, Character, and the Commons, by Carolyn Lesjak. Nineteenth-Century Literature 1 March 2023; 77 (4): 260–264. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncl.2023.77.4.260
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