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Rethinking the nineteenth century
Editors: Andrew Smith and Anna Barton

This book addresses a number of concerns that have emerged in recent scholarship on the nineteenth century. It contributes to existing dialogues that consider how the nineteenth century can be thought about and critically rethought through literature and other kinds of textual production. The book offers a theoretical consideration of the concept of the nineteenth century by considering Walter Benjamin's famous work The Arcades Project, focusing on Arnold Bennett's entitled 'The Rising Storm of Life'. It outlines how recent developments in Gothic studies have provided new ways of critically reflecting upon the nineteenth century. The book draws attention to the global scope of Victorian literature, and explores the exchanges which took place between Indian and British cultures. It argues that attending to the fashioning of American texts by British publishers enables people to rethink the emergence of American literature as a material as well as an imaginative phenomenon. The relationship between literature and the European anatomical culture is carried out by exploring nineteenth-century narratives from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in the first decades of the nineteenth-century to Charles Dickens's fiction in the 1860s. Historical fiction writers' persistent fascination with the long nineteenth century enacts a simultaneous drawing near to and distancing from the period, the lives of its inhabitants and its cultural icons, aesthetic discourses and canonical works. Adaptive practice in the neo-Victorian novel, applied both to Victorian literary precursors and the period more generally, may be better described as adaptive reuse or, perhaps appropriative reuse.

This collection of essays seeks to question the security of our assumptions about the fin de siècle by exploring the fiction of Richard Marsh, an important but neglected professional author. Richard Bernard Heldmann (1857–1915) began his literary career as a writer of boys’ fiction, but, following a prison sentence for fraud, reinvented himself as ‘Richard Marsh’ in 1888. Marsh was a prolific and popular author of middlebrow genre fiction including Gothic, crime, humour, romance and adventure, whose bestselling Gothic novel The Beetle: A Mystery (1897) outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Building on a burgeoning interest in Marsh’s writing, this collection of essays examines a broad array of Marsh’s genre fictions through the lens of cutting-edge critical theory, including print culture, New Historicism, disability studies, genre theory, New Economic Criticism, gender theory, postcolonial studies, thing theory, psychoanalysis, object relations theory and art history, producing innovative readings not only of Marsh but of the fin-de-siècle period. Marsh emerges here as a versatile contributor to the literary and journalistic culture of his time whose stories of shape-shifting monsters, daring but morally dubious heroes, lip-reading female detectives and objects that come to life helped to shape the genres of fiction with which we are familiar today. Marsh’s fictions reflect contemporary themes and anxieties while often offering unexpected, subversive and even counter-hegemonic takes on dominant narratives of gender, criminality, race and class, unsettling our perceptions of the fin de siècle.

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The uncanny forms of novelistic characterization
Author: Alexander Bove

Through an extensive study of Dickens’s “new art form,” the illustrated novel, Spectral Dickens sets out to transform certain fundamental assumptions about realism, literary forms, and imitation of personhood that have long defined the discourse of novel criticism and character studies. This book redefines and expands the critical discourse on fictional character by bringing a wider range of modern critical theory to the study of Dickens’s characterization, using in particular the three “hauntological” concepts of the Freudian uncanny, Derridean spectrality, and the Lacanian Real to give new ontological dimensions to the basic question: “What is a character?” By taking into account visual forms of representation and emphasizing the importance of form in rethinking the strict opposition between real person and fictional character, Spectral Dickens shifts the focus of character studies from long-entrenched values like “realism,” “depth,” and “lifelikeness,” to nonmimetic critical concepts like effigy, anamorphosis, visuality, and distortion. Ultimately, the “spectral” forms and concepts developed here in relation to Dickens’s unique and innovative characters—characters that have, in fact, always challenged implicit assumptions about the line between fictional character and real person—should have broader applications beyond Dickens’s novels and the Victorian era. The aim here is to provide a richer and more nuanced framework though which to understand fictional characters not as imitations of reality, but as specters of the real.