The Politics of Public Opinion in the Novels of Anthony Trollope

The Politics of Public Opinion in the Novels of Anthony Trollope

A 'Tenth Muse'

By Jan Gordon

The Politics of Public Opinion: Trollope'’s ‘Tenth Muse’ takes as its subject the rise of public opinion in the nineteenth-century British novel as (1) a uniquely collective narrative form posing as a singular voice and (2) a “voice” that distances itself from re-sponsibility by disguising its presence. As both immanent and transcendent, public opinion is aligned with “empty universals” that generate meaning.   

EPUB, 244 Pages


January 2023

£25.00, $35.00

PDF, 244 Pages


January 2023

£25.00, $35.00

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About This Book

  The figurative “body” of public opinion presents challenges to readers of the nineteenth-century British fiction insofar as it lacks the markers of an autonomous subject. It replaces direct address with intimations of surveillance and interpellation, reading characters and their actions as we read it for our situationally within it. In the novels of Anthony Trollope who continually refers to a vox populi, public opinion has an economy, as a kind of “currency” in which reputation is priced and marketed while itself seeming inconclusive and undeveloped, even among its self-appointed spokesmen.

It takes its place among a number of institutions that knit the country together as a network of conveyances with different points of entry: roads, railroads, ports and canals and the post office in which Trollope served as a civil servant for over 30 years. One such institution is the expanding bureaucracy which mediates between the people and those who regulate human activity and its exposure to government regulation. The ex-posure (literally to be placed outside oneself) is one of the ways in which public opinion, lacking a responsible subjectivity that can be held to account, removes individual subjectivity, threatening (or enabling) a rebirth in accountability. Yet, for all of its potentially subversive qualities, public opinion is a collective narrative—disguising itself as a unitary voice—that often misreads character and, in the Parliamentary Novels, ideology. As it is vulnerable to being misread by politicians, public opinion also misreads, especially the arrivistes attempting to enter the social and economic life of the country. Because of its resistance to inscriptive genres, the vox populi may well represent the lost orality of the epic to which critics like Georg Lukaks have called our attention. 


"In The Power of Public Opinion in the Novels of Anthony Trollope, Jan Gordon offers a fascinating account of Anthony Trollope’s fiction, which is full of compelling insights into both the dynamics of public opinion and the power of story-telling" — James Eli Adams, Professor of English & Comparative Literature, Columbia University.

"This book expands existing understanding of Trollope’s exceptional interest in the way people make up their minds and on what basis. Reading Trollope’s fiction within the history of ideas, Gordon investigates adeptly the new presence in the nineteenth century of ‘public opinion’ in shaping ideas themselves and guiding decisions" — Professor Francis O'Gorman MA DPhil (Oxford) FSA, Saintsbury Professor of English Literature, Department of English Literature, University of Edinburgh, UK.

"Richly informed and fascinatingly argued A ‘Tenth Muse’ mobilizes the concept of public opinion as a means to discuss morality, law, politics, power and knowledge across the enormous scope of Trollope’s works. Closely detailed as well as imaginatively theorized in its readings, this book will be essential reading for scholars of Trollope and the Victorian public sphere" — Simon J. James, Professor of Victorian Literature, Department of English Studies, Durham University.

Author Information

Jan B. Gordon was one of a group of six foreign academics invited to professorships at National Universities in Japan when the law was changed in 1983 prohibiting non-Japanese from holding such positions. He was granted Emeritus Status in 2004 and from 2007 to 2014 was a distinguished professor at Kyoto Women’s Department of English. He was therefore initially what is known as a white (affirmative action) appointment.


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Table of Contents

Preface: Overture to an Initial Public Offering; Chapter One The “Prosthetic Body” of Public Opinion in Barsetshire; Chapter Two Miming the Law; Chapter Three “Playing” the Opinion Market; Chapter Four The “Management” of Public Opinion in Trollope’s Bureaucracies; Chapter Five The Sugar; Index


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