John R. Reed, author of Victorian Conventions, The Natural History of H.G. Wells, and Decadent Style, has published a new critical study examining nineteenth-century British attitudes toward free will, determinism, providence, and fate. His new book, Victorian Will, argues for the need to understand a body of literature in its broadest historical and intellectual context. From among a number of different possibilities, Reed chose the concept of will –- whether understood as part of a providential scheme, as an illusory power in a determined existence, or as a free agent in a world of chance –- to illuminate the relationship of literary works of the period. Will was not only a prominent subject of discussion in Victorian England, but attitudes towards will affect form, style, and characterization in contemporary fiction, as Reed demonstrates in his discussion of the works of Mary Shelley, Bulwer-Lytton, Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and others. Victorian Will is destined to take its place beside Reed’s other work as a standard reference in nineteenth-century study.
John Reed is professor of English at Wayne State University. His most recent books include Victorian Conventions (1975) and The Natural History of H.G. Wells (1982), both published by Ohio University Press.
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