Lesjak, Carolyn 1963-

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Lesjak, Carolyn 1963-


Born January 17, 1963. Education: Swarthmore College, 1985.


Office—Department of English Literature, Swarthmore College, 500 College Ave., Swarthmore, PA 19081-1397.


Educator and writer. Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, associate professor of English.


Working Fictions: A Genealogy of the Victorian Novel, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2006.

Contributor to The Edinburgh Encyclopedia of Modern Criticism and Theory, edited by J. Wolfreys, Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2002; contributor to periodicals, including Utopian Studies, Studies in the Literary Imagination, and English Literary History.


Carolyn Lesjak is an English professor and the author of Working Fictions: A Genealogy of the Victorian Novel. In her book, the author offers a new critical analysis of Victorian literary history as she questions the relationship between labor and pleasure, two concepts that were integral to the Victorian mind and the era's literary output. Focusing on the "labor novel" of the Victorian era, the author reexamines how Victorian fiction portrayed work in novels such as Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton, George Eliot's Felix Holt and Daniel Deronda. She also examines the Utopian essays and other writings by William Morris and Oscar Wilde, which presented new relations between the ideas of work and pleasure. Overall, the book presents the author's case that the Victorian "labor novel" maintains a contemporary relevance that can address the significant difference between the concepts of work and pleasure that continue in the modern world.

In a description of Working Fictions on the Rebel Graphics Web site, the book is described as demonstrating "how the ideological work of the literature of the Victorian era, the ‘golden age of the novel,’ revolved around separating the domains of labor and pleasure and emphasizing the latter as the proper realm of literary representation." In her introduction to the book, Lesjak notes: "Unlike the rubric of the ‘industrial novel,’ the labor novel is neither confined to one genre or even a particular form of realism but instead encompasses a range of novels and nonfictional texts that share a preoccupation with what I have been calling the problematic of labor. The treatment of labor as a problematic forgoes any presumption as to what labor should look like and instead repositions it in terms of any number of representational strategies employed in order to represent it."

In her analysis of the Victorian labor novel's conceptualization of work and pleasure, the author employs social historical and Marxist criticism. The book is organized into three parts. The first part examines "the prototype for the constructed opposition between labor and pleasure," as the author notes in her introduction. The second part examines the world economy and its coming of age. In the third part, as noted by the author in her introduction, "the utopian fictions of Morris … and Wilde … are shown to directly challenge the distinctions between work and pleasure that the industrial novel and the late Bildungsroman narrate, and the invisibility of labor that results from this distinction."



Lesjak, Carolyn, Working Fictions: A Genealogy of the Victorian Novel, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2006.


Duke University Press,http://www.dukeupress.edu/ (February 8, 2008), description of Working Fictions.

Rebel Graphics,http://www.rebelgraphics.org/ (February 4, 2008), review of Working Fictions.

Swarthmore College Web site,http://www.swarthmore.edu/ (February 8, 2008), faculty profiles of author.