Helena Ifill
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The introduction provides an overview of the intertwined strands which run through Creating character. Sensation fiction is introduced as a genre which was itself seen by Victorian literary critics as a negative determinant which could corrupt readers, and which both Victorian and modern critics have identified as predominantly concerned with plotting rather than characterisation. Contrastingly, I argue that sensation fiction is in fact very concerned with the creation of character and is sensitive to the varied ways in which the personality can be formed, modified and corrupted; the emphasis on plot is in fact an acknowledgement of the many uncontrollable factors which can dictate the course of a person’s life. Next, the relevant contextual background of ongoing scientific, medical and educational debates is explained, ranging from early theories of moral management, through Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and onwards to the development of degenerationist and eugenicist thought. Recurring topics of criminality, insanity and education are also introduced here, as are the theories of some of the prominent Victorian medical people whose work is drawn on extensively in future chapters. The Introduction ends with a summary of what the reader can expect in the rest of the book.

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Creating character

Theories of nature and nurture in Victorian sensation fiction


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