This book explores the relationship between allusion and the uncanny in literature. An unexpected echo or quotation in a new text can be compared to the sudden appearance of a ghost or mysterious double, the reanimation of a corpse or the discovery of an ancient ruin hidden in a modern city. This study identifies moments where this affinity between allusion and the uncanny is used by writers to generate a particular textual charge, where uncanny elements are used to flag patterns of allusion and to point to the haunting presence of an earlier work. The book traces the subtle patterns of connection between texts centuries, even millennia apart, from Greek tragedy and Latin epic, through the plays of Shakespeare and the Victorian novel, to contemporary film, fiction and poetry. Each chapter takes a different uncanny motif as its focus: doubles, ruins, reanimation, ghosts and journeys to the underworld.
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.
(r)iction’ to describe the ‘text’s play
with postmodern self-reflection and self-inflection on the one hand, and
the more grounded, factual, and dogmatic principles of the multidisciplinary Victorian intellectual on the other’ (2008: 170). Llewellyn picks out
the genre’s postmodern inclinations rather than its erotic predilections,
Sexual and financial afterlives
but his phrase irresistibly calls to mind the sexual frankness of the neo-
Victorian genre. Indeed, neo-Victoriannovels often combine the two.
In Sarah Waters’ first novel, Tipping the Velvet (1998
model. Using the masculine pronoun ‘he’ to refer to herself, Charlotte/
Currer mocks her/his publishers for their implicitly womanish appetite
for poetry, a sly joke that tacitly acknowledges that any discussion of literary tradition and form is underpinned by assumptions about the relationship between gender and genre.
Charlotte’s ‘attempts’ at achieving an afterlife for her poetry in her
early novels explore this relationship via a set of intertextual exchanges
that perform the failure of the Romantic lyric within the Victoriannovel.
In 1872, a young archaeologist at the British Museum made a tremendous discovery. While he was working his way through a Mesopotamian ‘slush pile’, George Smith, a self-taught expert in ancient languages, happened upon a Babylonian version of Noah’s Flood. His research suggested this ‘Deluge Tablet’ pre-dated the writing of Genesis by a millennium or more. Smith went on to translate what later became The Epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps the oldest and most complete work of literature from any culture. Against the backdrop of innovative readings of a range of paintings, novels, histories and photographs (by figures like Dickens, Eliot, James, Dyce, Turner, Macaulay and Carlyle), this book demonstrates the Gordian complexity of the Victorians’ relationship with history, while also seeking to highlight the Epic’s role in influencing models of time in late-Victorian geology. Discovering Gilgamesh will be of interest to readers, students and researchers in literary studies, Victorian studies, history, intellectual history, art history and archaeology.
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.
Case studies of George Eliot and Harriet Martineau
Deborah M. Fratz
This chapter explores representations of impairment and disability in the
‘Literary Realism’ writings of George Eliot and Harriet Martineau and
investigates a different medium of popular perceptions and representations
of disability, that of popular fiction. Criticism addressing the use of
disabled characters in Victorian fiction frequently acknowledges how such
characters function by invoking feelings of sympathy, both within the
narrative and in readers. However, Deerbrook’s Maria Young and Philip Wakem
in The Mill on the Floss reverse our expectations: rather than being the
subjects of observation and sympathy, they operate as model observers of the
world around them. In this, they differ from the stereotypical role assigned
to disabled characters in other Victorian novels and seek to follow one of
the guiding principles of Literary Realism, the accurate portrayal of daily
life, rather than some romanticised notion.
Emma Tennant’s Thornfield Hall, Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair and Gail Jones’s Sixty Lights
feminist plea for equality for men and women, and the infamous
fairytale-love-plot ending –been revisited, reinterpreted, or even revisioned, in a number of neo-Victoriannovels?
At the conclusion of my chapter for The Brontës in Context, concerned
with current trends in Brontë scholarship, I posed some questions about
the link between academic scholarship and creative imagination and
about the ethical implications of neo-V ictorian fiction:
Creative revisionings illuminate the problems and pleasures of all historical
fictions: while they offer opportunities for
themselves as individuals and
stretch the social order, the Victoriannovel took a conservative turn.
In the Victoriannovel, protagonists learn that they must accept reality
and reconcile themselves to social inequality and the impossibility of
true change. Instead of having society become more flexible and
inclusive, the Victoriannovel expects the protagonist to have ‘a
change of heart’. 23
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Present endings: rethinking closure in
Conclusions are the weak points of most authors, but some of the fault lies
in the very nature of the conclusion, which is at best a negation.1
(George Eliot, Letter to John Blackwood, 1 May 1857)
he faultline in Victorian culture that the Gilgamesh controversy both
highlights and contributes to suggests that the arts were at best struggling to form a sense of their relationship to the past within conflicting
and emergent models of