Oliver Smithies Lecture: "Oh my beloved Victoriana:" Barbara Pym's Forms of Critique

This lecture considers the ways Barbara Pym’s novels recapitulate an early Twentieth-century Victorianism. Pymmian disinterestedness absorbs the modernist material world—the mundane, the advertised, the everyday, the dreary—while also retaining a stance of Arnoldian disinterestedness, devoid of troubling personal contingency. In this lecture, I’ll describe the ways Pym’s Oxford education in English literature (a Victorian invention), references to Victorian texts (particularly Matthew Arnold’s), and the insertion of recognizably Victorian books into her novel’s frames all work to shape her fictions.