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  • Series: Interventions: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century x
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Introducing contingency and that which did not happen as necessary and revealing conditions both of Romanticism itself and of our critical relationship with it, Counterfactual Romanticism explores the affordances of counterfactualism as a heuristic and as an imaginative tool. Innovatively extending counterfactual thought experiments from history and the social sciences to literary historiography and literary criticism and theory, the volume reveals the ways in which the shapes of Romanticism are conditioned by that which did not come to pass. Exploring – and creatively performing – various modalities of counterfactual speculation and inquiry across a range of Romantic-period authors, genres and concerns, and identifying the Romantic credentials of counterfactual thought, the introduction and eleven chapters in this collection offer a radical new purchase on literary history, on the relationship between history and fiction, on our historicist methods to date – and thus on the Romanticisms we (think we) have inherited. Counterfactual Romanticism provides a ground-breaking method of re-reading literary pasts and our own reading presents; in the process, literary production, texts and reading practices are unfossilised and defamiliarised. To emancipate the counterfactual imagination and embrace the counterfactual turn and its provocations is to reveal the literary multiverse and quantum field within which our far-from-inevitable literary inheritance is located.

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Writing social engagement 1880–1921

This volume is the first to bring together research on the life and work of the author, activist, and traveller Margaret Harkness, who wrote under the pseudonym ‘John Law’. The collection contextualises Harkness’s political project of observing and recording the lives and priorities of the working classes and urban poor alongside the broader efforts of philanthropists, political campaigners, journalists, and novelists who sought to bring the plight of marginalised communities to light at the end of the nineteenth century. It argues for a recognition of Harkness’s importance in providing testimony to the social and political crises that led to the emergence of British socialism and labour politics during this period. This collection includes considerations of Harkness’s work in London’s East End at the end of the nineteenth century, but moves into the twentieth century and beyond Britain’s borders to examine the significance of her global travel for the purpose of investigating international political trends. This collection gives substance to women’s social engagement and political involvement in a period prior to their formal enfranchisement, and offers insight into the ways this effected shifts in literary style and subject. In offering a detailed picture of Harkness’s own life and illuminating the lives and work of her contemporaries, this volume enriches critical understanding of the complex and dynamic world of the long nineteenth century.

A sourcebook
Editor: Jonathon Shears

This book, a collection of essays, presents new interpretations of one of the most significant exhibitions in the nineteenth century. It exposes how meaning has been produced around the Great Exhibition held at the Crystal Palace. The book contains a series of critical readings of the official and popular historical record of the Exhibition. The 'Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations', as it was initially referred to, was the product of a number of issues. The first is the liberal shift in politics of the 1830s that popularised laissez-faire attitudes to manufacture and enterprise. The second is the need to address Britain's position as an economic power and moral arbiter in post-Napoleonic Europe. The third is the fortunate incidents that occurred in the 1840s to bring together the men who would shape the venture. Mass production, as much as artisanship, was showcased at the Exhibition and much of the rhetoric of the Official Catalogue concerned the way mechanisation could save time, expense and labour. The fear of ethnic and cultural difference was rampant in Exhibition literature. The presence of women at the Exhibition raised gender issues such as being objectified and the threat of being 'seen'. Increased concern for the welfare of the working classes is one dominant motif of political which the organisers of the Great Exhibition could not avoid engaging. The book portrays the determined use of industrial knowledge, definitions of nation and colony, and the control of the Crystal Palace after the Great Exhibition closed.

New essays on experiences of culture and society

Over the past quarter of a century, the study of nineteenth-century Hispanic culture and society has undergone two major shifts. The first was a rejection of 'the myth of backwardness', a notion that these cultures and societies were exceptions that trailed behind the wider West.. The second trend was a critical focus on a core triad of nation, gender and representation. This volume of essays provides a strong focus for the exploration and stimulation of substantial new areas of inquiry. The shared concern is with how members of the cultural and intellectual elite in the nineteenth century conceived or undertook major activities that shaped their lives. The volume looks at how people did things without necessarily framing questions of motive or incentive in terms that would bring the debate back to a master system of gender, racial, ethnographic, or national proportions. It reviews some key temporal dilemmas faced by a range of nineteenth-century Spanish writers. The volume explores how they employed a series of narrative and rhetorical techniques to articulate the consequent complexities. It also looks at how a number of religious figures negotiated the relationship between politics and religion in nineteenth-century Spain. The volume concentrates on a spectrum of writings and practices within popular literature that reflect on good and bad conduct in Spain through the nineteenth century. Among other topics, it provides information on how to be a man, be a writer for the press, a cultural entrepreneur, an intellectual, and a colonial soldier.

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Theories of nature and nurture in Victorian sensation fiction
Author: Helena Ifill

This book explores the range of ways in which the two leading sensation authors of the 1860s, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins, engaged with nineteenth-century ideas about how the personality is formed and the extent to which it can be influenced either by the subject or by others.

Innovative readings of Braddon’s and Collins’s sensation novels – some of them canonical, others less well-known – demonstrate how they reflect, employ, and challenge Victorian theories of heredity, degeneration, willpower, inherent constitution, education, insanity, upbringing and social circumstance. Far from presenting a reductive depiction of ‘nature’ versus ‘nurture’, Braddon and Collins show the creation of character to be a complex interplay of internal and external factors that are as much reliant on chance as on the efforts of the people who try to exert control over an individual’s development. Their works raise challenging questions about responsibility and self-determinism and, as the analyses of these texts reveals, demonstrate an acute awareness that the way in which character formation is understood fundamentally influences the way people (both in fiction and reality) are perceived, judged and treated.

Drawing on material from a variety of genres, including Victorian medical textbooks, scientific and sociological treatises, specialist and popular periodical literature, Creating character shows how sensation authors situated themselves at the intersections of established and developing, conservative and radical, learned and sensationalist thought about how identity could be made and modified.

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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Legacies and afterlives

This book charts the vast cultural impact of Charlotte Bronte since the appearance of her first published work, Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. It highlights the richness and diversity of the author's legacy, her afterlife and the continuation of her plots and characters in new forms. The most well known and well regarded of the three sisters during the Victorian period, Charlotte Bronte bequeathed a legacy which is more extensive and more complex than the legacies of Emily Bronte and Anne Bronte. The book shows how Bronte's cultural afterlife has also been marked by a broad geographical range in her consideration of Bronte-related literary tourism in Brussels. It is framed by the accounts of two writers, Elizabeth Gaskell and Virginia Woolf, both of whom travelled to Yorkshire to find evidence of Charlotte Bronte's life and to assess her legacy as an author. The book focuses upon Bronte's topical fascination with labour migration for single, middle-class women in the light of the friendship and correspondence with Mary Taylor. Recent works of fiction have connected the Brontes with the supernatural. The book explores Bronte biodrama as a critically reflexive art: a notable example of popular culture in dialogue with scholarship, heritage and tourism. The Professor and Jane Eyre house the ghost of an original verse composition, whose inclusion allows both novels to participate together in a conversation about the novel's capacity to embody and sustain a lyric afterlife. A survey of the critical fortunes of Villette is also included.

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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.

Open Access (free)
The omnibus and urban culture in nineteenth-century Paris
Author: Masha Belenky

Engine of Modernity: The Omnibus and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris examines the connection between public transportation and popular culture in nineteenth-century Paris through a focus on the omnibus - a horse-drawn vehicle for mass urban transport which enabled contact across lines of class and gender. A major advancement in urban locomotion, the omnibus generated innovations in social practices by compelling passengers of diverse backgrounds to interact within the vehicle’s close confines. Although the omnibus itself did not actually have an engine, its arrival on the streets of Paris and in the pages of popular literature acted as a motor for a fundamental cultural shift in how people thought about the city, its social life, and its artistic representations. At the intersection of literary criticism and cultural history, Engine of Modernity argues that for nineteenth-century French writers and artists, the omnibus was much more than a mode of transportation. It became a metaphor through which to explore evolving social dynamics of class and gender, meditate on the meaning of progress and change, and reflect on one’s own literary and artistic practices.