Neo-Victorian Fiction and Historical Narrative: The Victorians and Us

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But before I can answer these important questions, I must answer a much more simple one:. The answers above are examples, not definitions, and many people have taken these same artistic, cultural and literary works and produced very different definitions of neo-Victorian fiction.

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For a selection of these, see the bottom of this post. But, like all researchers in this field, I must decide which definition suits my study, and support this definition. Periodisation is a problematic concept, as it necessarily oversimplifies, homogenises, and superficially summarises an entire era. It creates chronological boundaries, with highly disputed start and end points, and implies that there is a uniqueness to traits of the era, and that these are common within that era.

Lecture 30: Victorian Novel

Ultimately, since history is continuous, periodisation can only occur in retrospect and is more or less arbitrary. Yet nevertheless, it is a very useful framework and system of shorthand. The particularly marked contemporary return to the nineteenth century would be lost if this phenomenon was treated as undifferentiated from an interest in historical fiction in general.

Accepting then the problems and use of periodisation, what does Victorian refer to, as I am using it? My research will be engaging with texts from across the British Victorian Empire. Arguably, periodisation is problematic for Australian and other postcolonial historical fiction as it always refers to European events particularly, in fiction written in English, to Britain.

Yet there does seem to be a return to the nineteenth century in fiction across the once-Victorian empire, and analysing them using the framework of neo-Victorianism could allow similarities, differences and points of discussion to emerge.

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As such, I will be using a broad idea of the long nineteenth century, in order to encompass the widest range of British and post-colonial neo-Victorian texts. Yet certain characteristics did emerge, and they are particularly marked in neo-Victorian fiction because authors of such texts are aware of periodisation. After all, neo-Victorian authors only know the Victorian era through archival remains, particularly the literary. Hence, periodisation is a particularly relevant concept in studies of historical fiction.

Neo-Victorian Fiction and Historical Narrative

Forming compounds referring to a new, revived, or modified form of some doctrine, belief, practice, language, artistic style, etc. Kirchknopf sees the variety of prefixes used to denote the current re-engagement as suggesting different emphases, with retro- and neo-Victorian highlighting the emphasis on the past and the future respectively, and post-Victorian striking a balance between the two. Other titles include Victoriana Kaplan , nostalgic postmodernism Gutleben and historiographic metafiction Linda Hutcheon.

Nevertheless, the term neo-Victorian has continued gaining a self-perpetuating value through usage. A quick Google search shows a million and a half results for neo-Victorian, but only somewhat over 70, for post- and 10, for retro-Victorian. And while Victoriana turns up more than two million hits, it is used much more broadly, often referring to material items from the Victorian period itself. A somewhat consensual title allows the field to continue developing in new directions, and a journal employing such a title allows more straight-forward dissemination. Moreover, in my research, I am taking the stance of accentuating the neo of neo-Victorianism, so as to focus on the contemporary era revisioning the past.

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All of which brings me back to that original question: so what is neo-Victorianism? That is, I am focusing on creative works that are at least somewhat self-conscious if not fully meta-critical , that use Victorian culture and literature, and talk back to Victorian culture and literature, in order to create original works that speak to and for the contemporary age.

Moreover, I embrace neo-Victorianism as a highly, engagingly interdisciplinary field, but I shall be restricting myself to fictional texts in order to explore them in more depth. But whether or not we agree with Foucault, Denis Diderot's story of truth-speaking genitals, invoked here, whether it is our emblem or not, is an emblem, more or less obscure of these post-Victorian, if not postmodern, narratives. Each of the works shares a formal feature, a theme and the articulation of the theme through the emblem of an interrogated sexuality.

Rewriting Fiction: A Neo-Victorian Contemporary Approach

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Read preview. To displace this story of Victorian sexuality and offer a context through which to see the novels as offering us a supportive myth rather than a history, I will start with a quotation from The History of Sexuality that turns the psychological inquisition of sexuality into a Disney cartoon: The aim of this series of studies? To transcribe in history the fable of The Indiscreet Jewels. Among its many emblems, our society bears that of the talking genitals. Those genitals, that one catches by surprise and interrogates, constrained and loquacious, respond tirelessly.

Neo-Victorianism: An Introduction

Possessing the Past. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: Ghosts, ghost stories and the tropes of haunting and spectrality are recurrent topics in contemporary literature and criticism.


In , the year of the book under review, we witnessed the publication of Peter Ackroyd's The English Ghost. Possessing the Past, have successfully combined these trends by bringing together, in the eight chapters of their volume, scholars who apply a variety of perspectives on the trope of the ghost, and on the notions of haunting and spectrality, to the study of Neo-Victorian texts.

Haunting and spectrality were not only recurrent notions in Victorian fiction but intrinsic aspects of the socio-cultural atmosphere of the times, as Julian Wolfreys demonstrated in his influential Victorian Hauntings: Spectrality, Gothic, the Uncanny and Literature