Elizabeth Gaskell, whose famous works include North and South and Cranford, is probably not an author most scholars would associate with contemporary literary theory.
Unlike works by her nineteenth century contemporaries such as Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, and George Eliot, Gaskell’s texts are seldom examined by scholars interested in theory, instead being read as classic high realism, uncomplicated reflections of the world in which she lived.
However, faculty member Dr. Melissa Schaub sought to complicate that view in her latest monograph, Performativity in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Shorter Fiction: A Case Study in the Uses of Theory (Palgrave, 2019).
Her work not only applies ideas about performativity to Gaskell’s works, offering new ways to read the ideological import of these less examined texts, but serves as a case study of the benefits and limitations of applying theory to literature more generally. As a case study it is intended for both scholarly and student audiences.
Schaub notes, “The book is part of the Palgrave Pivot series, a digital-first line of shorter monographs designed to be easily bought as separate chapters, which I hope will make it easy to use in the classroom."