Novel Institutions

Anachronism, Irish Novels and Nineteenth-Century Realism

Mary L. Mullen

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Explores the politics of nineteenth-century British realism

  • Winner of the 2019 Robert Rhodes Prize for Books on Literature
  • Offers a new theory of institutions grounded in temporality
  • Outlines a transnational theory of British realism that emerges from interpreting Irish realist novels
  • Reassesses the politics of realism and the politics of institutions
  • Contains close-reading of realist novels as well as a new genealogy of British realism
  • Advances a new understanding of the relationship between realism and colonialism

This book examines anachronisms in realist writing from the colonial periphery to redefine British realism and rethink the politics of institutions. Paying unprecedented attention to nineteenth-century Irish novels, it demonstrates how institutions constrain social relationships in the present and limit our sense of political possibilities in the future. It argues that we cannot escape institutions, but we can refuse the narrow political future that they work to secure.


Part I: Necessary and Unnecessary Anachronisms

Chapter 1. Realism and the Institution of the Nineteenth-Century Novel

Part II: Forgetting and Remembrance

Chapter 2. William Carleton’s and Charles Kickham’s Ethnographic Realism
Chapter 3. George Eliot’s Anachronistic Literacies

Part III: Untimely Development

Chapter 4. Charles Dickens’s Reactionary Reform
Chapter 5. George Moore’s Untimely Bildung

Coda: Inhabiting Institutions

Novel Institutions considers the ways in which institutions configure, regulate and foreclose time in that powerful nineteenth century form we call realism. Mullen’s readings of a largely unstudied cache of Irish novels suggest that we are not obliged to inhabit the futures the dominant novel imagines for us, and that reading time out of joint can offer very realistic hope for changing the institutions that we inhabit.

Elaine Freedgood, New York University
Mary Mullen Assistant Professor of English and faculty member of the Irish Studies Center at Villanova University. She’s published articles in Victorian Poetry, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, New Hibernia Review, Cultural Studies, and Victoriographies.

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