understand. It was particularly in evidence in the popularfiction of the day, and here, perhaps, it had its most powerful effect
Fiction creates its own reality, and tempts the reader to
enter an imagined world: if the fictions of History were compelling,
pinning Deeds of Glory on real, historical figures, the adventures of
invented characters might be yet more seductive, for using the same plot
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.
The book explores the relationship between early Victorian popular fiction and radical politics – the way Newgate calendars and novels, penny bloods and crime or ‘low’ literature could intermittently express radical or even Chartist arguments about the need for working-class agency and empowerment. Offering new readings of Jack Sheppard, Sweeney Todd, The Mysteries of London and many other novels and short stories from the 1830s and 1840s, primarily emerging out of London, the book compares the popular to the radical canon, and specifically to a great deal of contemporaneous Chartist fiction. It finds that popular writers and editors attempted to attract a politicised working-class audience by including material that was not only a clear cultural confrontation, a challenge to polite society and middle-class taste, but also a political confrontation that asserted the value of working-class decision making. Understanding Chartism, Victorian Britain’s first nationwide attempt to bring in democracy and challenge the established political order, as a complex, shifting, and internally inconsistent movement, The penny politics of Victorian popular fiction offers a new way to look at the way popular fiction reused or repurposed Chartist and radical narratives. Radicalism and popular culture were in fact both engaged in intricate attempts to capitalise on a constituency of audiences understood to have multiple and expansive aesthetic and political tastes. The book makes clear why and how a popular press would invest in the political and social issues that were finding expression in a popular political movement.
This book revisits the end of the First World War to ask how that moment of silence was to echo into the following decades. It looks at the history from a different angle, asking how British and German creative artists addressed, questioned and remembered the Armistice and its silence. The book offers a genuinely interdisciplinary study, bringing together contributions from scholars in art history, music, literature and military history. It is unique in its comparison of the creative arts of both sides; assessing responses to the war in Britain, Germany and Austria. Together, the different chapters offer a rich diversity of methodological approaches, including archival research, historical analysis, literary and art criticism, musical analysis and memory studies. The chapters reconsider some well-known writers and artists to offer fresh readings of their works. These sit alongside a wealth of lesser-known material, such as the popular fiction of Philip Gibbs and Warwick Deeping and the music of classical composer Arthur Bliss. The wide-ranging discussions encompass such diverse subjects as infant care, sculpture, returned nurses, war cemeteries, Jewish identity, literary journals, soldiers' diaries and many other topics. Together they provide a new depth to our understanding of the cultural effects of the war and the Armistice. Finally, the book has a recuperative impulse, bringing to light rare and neglected materials, such as the letters of ordinary German and British soldiers, and Alfred Doblin's Armistice novel.
Modernism, Romance and the fin de siècle: Popular Fiction and British Culture, 1880-1914 by Nicholas Daly; Victorian Gothic: Literary and Cultural Manifestations in the Nineteenth Century edited by Ruth Robbins and Julian Wolfreys
Many vampires in popular fiction have developed a conscience that mitigates their monstrosity and makes them objects of human love and admiration. With the advent of the reformed vampire, Western culture has, perhaps, lost an icon of true horror. As the vampire has become increasingly humanized and sympathetic, the zombie has stepped up to take its place. Zombies remind us that we will soon be decomposing flesh; the zombie horde embodies fear of loss of self and individuality; zombies expose the dark side of mass consumer culture; and zombies highlight the fragility of human identity in an advanced, globalised society.
This book investigates discursive structures intermittently recurring through Gothic writing, and provides intertextual readings, exemplifications of contemporaneously understood, discursively inflected, debate. By drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault to establish a genealogy, it brings Gothic writing in from the margins of 'popular fiction', resituating it at the centre of debate about Romanticism. The book stresses that the intertextual readings form the methodological lynchpin for interpreting Gothic writing as self-aware debate on the character of the subject. Foucault's theory of discourse enables readers to gain an historical purchase on Gothic writing. The book traces the genealogy of a particular strand, the 'Gothic aesthetic', where a chivalric past was idealized at the explicit expense of a classical present. It introduces the reader to the aspects of Gothic in the eighteenth century including its historical development and its placement within the period's concerns with discourse and gender.
British popular fiction and post-war uncertainties
‘A strange mood’: British popularfiction and
The response of British writers of popularfiction to the Armistice was
mixed. John Buchan would later write of ‘that curious summer of 1919
when everyone was feverishly trying to forget the war’,1 and many did
indeed turn away with relief from stern patriotism and uplift, towards
South Seas escapism or light comedy; others directed their gaze towards
the actual post-Armistice world, and they were often disturbed by what
they saw. Rarely did writers of the time suggest
Victoria Margree, Daniel Orrells, and Minna Vuohelainen
compared to leading writers of sensation and Gothic
fiction such as Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe. However, Marsh
was a victim of his own success within the capitalist literary system he
helped to fuel. His short stories and novels were produced to satisfy an
Richard Marsh, popularfiction and literary culture
ever-increasing audience that throve upon topicality and continually
demanded new pleasures and satisfactions. While Marsh’s work helped
to create the familiar collection of leitmotifs recycled in today’s neoVictorian landscape, such middlebrow writing was
Popularfiction is one of the ways
by which society instructs its members in its prevailing ideas and
mores, its dominant role models and legitimate aspirations. It both
reflects popular attitudes, ideas and preconceptions and it generates
support for selected views and opinions. So it can act – sometimes
simultaneously – as a form of social control, directing the