Omniscient Narrators and the Return of the Gothic in Northanger Abbey and Bleak House

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the preceding chapter, I argued that Smith’s invisible hand functions through the use of a spatialized ‘double perspective’ that combines the knowledge of the helpless sovereign with the moral agency of the limited individual economic (and moral) agent, the limits of each position being comprehended by a theorist with a view of the whole. In this chapter and the ones that follow, I will be examining some of the ways that novelists writing in the years of political economy’s first flush of prestige (roughly 1800–50) adopted similar techniques in order to dramatize the unpredictable fates of moral actions in complex societies. Like Smith, they tried to imagine the invisible order that lurked behind the chaos of visible details, and constructed stories composed of several different perspectives to do so. They heightened the dramatic irony of the epistemological distance between author and characters to both tragic and comic effect. In doing this they adopted some of Smith’s mordant awareness of folly and delusion as well as his assertion of generally optimistic outcomes. In this chapter I will focus on two novels that respond to the difficulties of representing multiple points of view in complex societies by inventing uneasy and yet dialectically vibrant composites of genres and narrative perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPalgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages45
StatePublished - 2011

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture
ISSN (Print)2634-6494
ISSN (Electronic)2634-6508


  • Coffee Berry
  • Complex Society
  • Happy Ending
  • Invisible Hand
  • Moral Space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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