Chapter

Of Art, Of Literature, Of Mr. H. G. Wells

Simon J. James

in Maps of Utopia

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199606597
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738517 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199606597.003.0001
Of Art, Of Literature, Of Mr. H. G. Wells

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Following the enormous expansion of the reading public after the 1870–1 Education Acts, late-Victorian authors worried about the newly literate wanted to read—and about the fact that overwhelmingly, they chose novels and romances. This chapter locates the origins of Wells’s literary aesthetics within debates in the periodical press about whether fiction is good for those who read it, and argues that Wells sought to fuse the dominant traditions of Victorian prose: fiction and sage-writing. For Wells, it is not enough for art to be: it must also do, make a positive alteration in the material world. This chapter also considers the ways in which evolutionary theory underlie Wells’s aesthetics, and examines the importance of Wells’s long relationship, and disagreements, with Henry James; and adumbrates Wells’s theory of literature as education.

Keywords: mass literacy; education; novel; fiction; romance; Henry James; evolution

Chapter.  16777 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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