Written over a thirty-five year period, these essays reflect the changes in J. Hillis Miller’s thinking on Victorian topics, from an early concern with questions of consciousness, form, and intellectual history, to a more recent focus on parable and the development of a deconstructive ethics of reading.
Miller defines the term “Victorian subjects” in more than one sense. The phrase identifies an historical time but also names a concern throughout with subjectivity, consciousness, and selfhood in Victorian literature. The essays show various Victorian subjectivities seeking to ground themselves in their own underlying substance or in some self beneath or beyond the self. But “Victorian subjects” also discusses those who were subject to Queen Victoria, to the reigning ideologies of the time, to historical, social, and material conditions, including the conditions under which literature was written, published, distributed, and consumed.
These essays, taken together, sketch the outlines of ideological assumptions within the period about the self, interpersonal relations, nature, literary form, the social function of literature, and other Victorian subjects.