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.
With reference to films such as The Terror Experiment (2010) and Osombie (2012), this paper explores the figure of the zombie terrorist, a collectively othered group that is visually identifiable as not us and can be slaughtered with impunity. In cinematic treatments, the zombie terrorist operates within a collectivity of zombies, erasing the possibility of individuality when the transformation from human to zombie takes place. The zombie terrorist signifies otherness in relation to selfhood, and is characterised by a mind/body split. Emerging from the grave in the archetypal zombie primal scene, this reanimated corpse is undead in its animate corporeality coupled with a loss of all mental faculties. The erasure of individual identity and memory along with broader human characteristics such as empathy or willpower coincides with the zombie terrorist s physical movement and action.
hanged for forging his signature, an event
Mannion believes initiated his own exclusion from respectable society
(p. 182). In retaliation, Mannion first consummates his illicit relationship with Margaret (in Basil’s hearing), and then vows to persecute Basil
Self-control, willpower and monomania
by following him to the ends of the earth, systematically destroying any
social standing he may manage to achieve. In what reads as a near parodic reversal of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818, a novel that Collins
knew and enjoyed as a young man4) Mannion, already
partly socially induced.
He was raised to exercise self-control and willpower, qualities that
have enabled him to succeed as a lawyer in a competitive,
consumerist society. However, in the course of this he has developed
a false self. The theory of the false self, advanced by D. W.
Winnicott and elaborated on by subsequent psychoanalysts, describes
a situation where the
According to this book, Romania's predatory rulers, the heirs of the sinister communist dictator Ceauşescu, have inflicted a humiliating defeat on the European Union. The book argues that Brussels was tricked into offering full membership to this Balkan country in return for substantial reforms which its rulers now refuse to carry out. It unmasks the failure of the EU to match its visionary promises of transforming Romania with the shabby reality. Benefiting from access to internal reports and leading figures involved in a decade of negotiations, the book shows how Eurocrats were outwitted by unscrupulous local politicians who turned the EU's multi-level decision-making processes into a laughing-stock. The EU's famous ‘soft power’ turned out to be a mirage, as it was unable to summon up the willpower to insist that this key Balkan state embraced its standards of behaviour in the political and economic realms. The book unravels policy failures in the areas of justice, administrative and agricultural reform, showing how Romania moved backwards politically during the years of negotiations.
John Marchmont’s Legacy
The tenderness which is the common attribute of a woman’s nature had not
been given to her. She ought to have been a great man. Nature makes these
mistakes now and then, and the victim expiates the error.1
(Mary Elizabeth Braddon, John Marchmont’s Legacy )
The previous chapter showed how Wilkie Collins’s Basil and No Name
draw on the condition of monomania in order to explore issues of self-
control, willpower and agency. In No Name especially, Collins asserts that
human beings have inherent character traits that will
In May 1958, and four years into the Algerian War of Independence, a revolt again appropriated the revolutionary and republican symbolism of the French Revolution by seizing power through a Committee of Public Safety. This book explores why a repressive colonial system that had for over a century maintained the material and intellectual backwardness of Algerian women now turned to an extensive programme of 'emancipation'. After a brief background sketch of the situation of Algerian women during the post-war decade, it discusses the various factors contributed to the emergence of the first significant women's organisations in the main urban centres. It was only after the outbreak of the rebellion in 1954 and the arrival of many hundreds of wives of army officers that the model of female interventionism became dramatically activated. The French military intervention in Algeria during 1954-1962 derived its force from the Orientalist current in European colonialism and also seemed to foreshadow the revival of global Islamophobia after 1979 and the eventual moves to 'liberate' Muslim societies by US-led neo-imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq. For the women of Bordj Okhriss, as throughout Algeria, the French army represented a dangerous and powerful force associated with mass destruction, brutality and rape. The central contradiction facing the mobile socio-medical teams teams was how to gain the trust of Algerian women and to bring them social progress and emancipation when they themselves were part of an army that had destroyed their villages and driven them into refugee camps.
by habit and
automaticity, self-control capacity allows agents to adjust their behaviour
according to their own values and chosen commitments, showing the best
expression of wise self-government in social domains.
In this sense, we intend self-regulation to go along with willpower
(Baumeister and Tierney 2011). Even if contemporary neuroscience has
clarified that much of the will is expressed outside the agents’ awareness
(Roskies 2012), this is not really something that concerns us here, since
unconscious willpower is sufficient to self-determination, autonomy and
effected either by individuals themselves or by others; that is, their governance can be both internal and external.3
The majority of the mid-Victorian men and women who wrote about the
nature of selfhood, including many of those introduced in the following
pages, attached great importance to the individual’s potential for free will.
They held compatibilist views that acknowledged to a greater or lesser
extent the many deterministic factors that played on the development
of each individual whilst maintaining a belief in the freedom of the willpower to dictate behaviour
Christian personal conscience and clerical intervention in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
appropriate. The Chanter comes to no absolute conclusion: the
priest has the discretion to commute the fast in cases where the person has insufficient
willpower to finish the penance, or in exceptional cases, such as when the penitent is
required to eat in public where refraining from meat might cause scandal to his companions
(Peter the Chanter, Summa , xvi: 203). Again, whereas it might be tempting for
historians to regard this transaction as the control of the penitent by
the priest, it could just as validly be understood