Victorian literary culture and ancient Egypt

Editor: Eleanor Dobson

This book considers ancient Egypt and its relics as depicted in literature across the Victorian era, addressing themes such as reanimated mummies and ancient Egyptian mythology, as well as contemporary consumer culture across a range of literary modes, from literary realism to Gothic fiction, from burlesque satire to historical novels, and from popular culture to the elite productions of the aesthetes and decadents. In doing so, it is the first multi-authored study to scrutinise ancient Egypt in nineteenth-century literature, bringing together a variety of literary methodologies to probe ancient Egypt’s complex connotations across this era. This collection scrutinises and illuminates the ways in which ancient Egypt was harnessed to question notions of race, imperialism, religion, gender, sexuality and the fluidity of literary genre. Collectively, the chapters demonstrate the pervasiveness of contemporary interest in ancient Egypt through the consideration of narratives and authors held as canonical in the nineteenth century, bringing these into conversation with new sources brought to light by the authors of these chapters. Discussing the works of major figures in nineteenth-century culture including Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, George Eliot, H. Rider Haggard, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde, this collection extends beyond British writing, to European and American literature. It weaves discussions of understudied figures – such as Charles Wells, Louisa Stuart Costello and Guy Boothby – into this analysis. Overall, it establishes the richness of a literary culture developing across the century often held to have ‘birthed’ the discipline of Egyptology, the scholarly means by which we might comprehend ancient Egyptian culture.

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