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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

Chapter 7 - Animated Conversations: Form, Transformation and the Category of the Novel in the 1880s


This chapter considers the role of form in debates related to the reconfiguration of novel’s place in the 1880s literary field. To do so it turns to three cultural debates underpinned by questions of form: the distinction between the healthy and the unhealthy house in relation to the International Health Exhibition (1884); the distinction between healthy and unhealthy novels in a series of 1884 essays on the novel by Walter Besant, Henry James, and George Moore respectively; and the distinction between healthy and unhealthy novels in relation to print censorship and the Henry Vizetelly trial and debates (1888-89). Taken together, these debates illuminate how form was reconfigured for the reading public in the 1880s to at once enhance and challenge the role of the novel as a vital and consequential social force. They also illustrate the ways in which frameworks for evaluation were tested, explored and refined in ways that continue to reverberate for literary studies today.

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