Egoism and “The Eyes of Others”
Lord Jim, Miss Mole, and the Dialogue of Literary “Brows”
This essay participates in recent scholarship destabilizing the binary opposition between high and middlebrow culture through a comparative study of egotism in two British novels. Rather than recovering forgotten classics such as E.H. Young’s Miss Mole within the categories of women’s literature or middlebrow literature, the writer examines the contribution of such novels to cultural discourses that cut across literary brows. Drawing on Wai Chee Dimock’s theory of resonance and Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogism, she pairs the canonical Lord Jim and the insufficiently known Miss Mole in order to hear previously inaudible sounds in both texts and to claim their dialogic interaction. This critical approach illuminates the kinship of texts segregated by the commercial, cultural, and ideological projects of assigning brows to texts. The comparison of egotism in the two novels throws into relief both the modern anxiety that the individual might be lost amidst an indifferent and populated world and the two authors’ different responses to this anxiety. Comparison of the two novels’ treatment of egotism allows us to hear the woman’s domestic novel as a reply to the man’s adventure novel.
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