Late nineteenth-century Britain experienced an unprecedented explosion of visual print culture and a simultaneous rise in literacy across social classes. New printing technologies facilitated quick and cheap dissemination of images—illustrated books, periodicals, cartoons, comics, and ephemera—to a mass readership. This Victorian visual turn prefigured the present-day impact of the Internet on how images are produced and shared, both driving and reflecting the visual culture of its time.
From this starting point, Drawing on the Victorians sets out to explore the relationship between Victorian graphic texts and today’s steampunk, manga, and other neo-Victorian genres that emulate and reinterpret their predecessors. Neo-Victorianism is a flourishing worldwide phenomenon, but one whose relationship with the texts from which it takes its inspiration remains underexplored.
In this collection, scholars from literary studies, cultural studies, and art history consider contemporary works—Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moto Naoko’s Lady Victorian, and Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies, among others—alongside their antecedents, from Punch’s 1897 Jubilee issue to Alice in Wonderland and more. They build on previous work on neo-Victorianism to affirm that the past not only influences but converses with the present.
Contributors: Christine Ferguson, Kate Flint, Anna Maria Jones, Linda K. Hughes, Heidi Kaufman, Brian Maidment, Rebecca N. Mitchell, Jennifer Phegley, Monika Pietrzak-Franger, Peter W. Sinnema, Jessica Straley
In the 1880s, the well-connected young Englishman William B. Close and his three brothers, having bought thousands of acres of northwest Iowa prairie, conceived the idea of enticing sons of Britain’s upper classes to pursue the life of the landed gentry on these fertile acres. “Yesterday a wilderness, today an empire”: their bizarre experiment, which created a colony for people “of the better class” who were not in line to inherit land but whose fathers would set them up in farming, flourished in Le Mars, Iowa (and later in Pipestone, Minnesota), with over five hundred youths having a go at farming. In Gentlemen on the Prairie, Curtis Harnack tells the remarkable story of this quite unusual chapter in the settling of the Midwest.
Many of these immigrants had no interest in American citizenship but enjoyed or endured the challenging adventure of remaining part of the empire while stranded on the plains. They didn’t mix socially with other Le Mars area residents but enjoyed such sports as horse racing, fox hunts, polo, and an annual derby followed by a glittering grand ball. Their pubs were named the House of Lords, the House of Commons, and Windsor Castle; the Prairie Club was a replica of a London gentlemen’s club, an opera house attracted traveling shows, and their principal hotel was Albion House. In St. George’s Episcopal Church, prayers were offered for the well-being of Queen Victoria.
Problems soon surfaced, however, even for these well-heeled aristocrats. The chief problem was farm labor; there was no native population to exploit, and immigrant workers soon bought their own land. Although sisters might visit the colonists and sometimes marry one of them, appropriate female companionship was scarce. The climate was brutal in its extremes, and many colonists soon sold their acres at a profit and moved to countries affiliated with Britain. When the financial depression in the early 1890s lowered land values and made agriculture less profitable, the colony collapsed. Harnack skillfully draws upon the founder’s “Prairie Journal,” company ledgers, and other records to create an engaging, engrossing story of this quixotic pioneering experiment.
Victorian Britain, with its maritime economy and strong links between government and scientific enterprises, founded an office to collect meteorological statistics in 1854 in an effort to foster a modern science of the weather. But as the office turned to prediction rather than data collection, the fragile science became a public spectacle, with its forecasts open to daily scrutiny in the newspapers. And meteorology came to assume a pivotal role in debates about the responsibility of scientists and the authority of science.
Studying meteorology as a means to examine the historical identity of prediction, Katharine Anderson offers here an engrossing account of forecasting that analyzes scientific practice and ideas about evidence, the organization of science in public life, and the articulation of scientific values in Victorian culture. In Predicting the Weather, Anderson grapples with fundamental questions about the function, intelligibility, and boundaries of scientific work while exposing the public expectations that shaped the practice of science during this period.
A cogent analysis of the remarkable history of weather forecasting in Victorian Britain, Predicting the Weather will be essential reading for scholars interested in the public dimensions of science.
One of the most important voices of the Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay is largely recognized for his work during the 1920s, which includes a major collection of poems, Harlem Shadows, as well as a critically acclaimed novel, Home to Harlem. But McKay was never completely comfortable with his literary reputation during this period. Throughout his world travels, he saw himself as an English lyricist.
In this compelling examination of the life and works of this complex poet, novelist, journalist, and short story writer, Josh Gosciak sheds light on McKay’s literary contributions beyond his interactions with Harlem Renaissance artists and writers. Working within English literary traditions, McKay crafted a verse out of hybridity and diaspora. Gosciak shows how he reinvigorated a modern pastoral through his encounters with some of the major aesthetic and political movements of the late Victorian and early modern periods.
Exploring new archival material as well as many of McKay’s lesser known poetic works, TheShadowed Country provides a unique interpretation of the writings of this major author.
In examining the relationship between fairy tales and Victorian culture, Molly Clark Hillard concludes that the Victorians were “spellbound”: novelists, poets, and playwrights were self-avowedly enchanted by these tales. At the same time, Spellbound: The Fairy Tale and the Victorians shows that literary genres were bound to the fairy tale and dependent on its forms and figures to make meaning. But these “spellbound” literary artists also feared that fairy tales exuded an originative power that pervaded and precluded authored work. In part to dispel the fairy tale’s potency, Victorians resolved this tension by treating the form as a nostalgic refuge from an industrial age, a quaint remnant of the pre-literacy of childhood and peasantry, and a form fit not for modern gentlemen but rather for old wives.
Through close readings of the novels of Dickens, Eliot, and Charlotte Brontë; the poetry of Tennyson and Christina Rossetti; the visual artistry of Burne-Jones and Punch; and the popular theatricals of dramatists like Planche and Buckingham, Spellbound opens fresh territory into well-traversed titles of the Victorian canon. Hillard demonstrates that these literary forms were all cross-pollenated by the fairy tale and that their authors were—however reluctantly—purveyors of disruptive fairy tale matter over which they had but imperfect control.
Nineteenth-century England witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of publications and institutions devoted to the creation and the dissemination of knowledge: encyclopedias, scientific periodicals, instruction manuals, scientific societies, children’s literature, mechanics’ institutes, museums of natural history, and lending libraries. In Useful Knowledge Alan Rauch presents a social, cultural, and literary history of this new knowledge industry and traces its relationships within nineteenth-century literature, ending with its eventual confrontation with Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Rauch discusses both the influence and the ideology of knowledge in terms of how it affected nineteenth-century anxieties about moral responsibility and religious beliefs. Drawing on a wide array of literary, scientific, and popular works of the period, the book focusses on the growing importance of scientific knowledge and its impact on Victorian culture. From discussions of Jane Webb Loudon’s The Mummy! and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor, Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke, and George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, Rauch paints a fascinating picture of nineteenth-century culture and addresses issues related to the proliferation of knowledge and the moral issues of this time period. Useful Knowledge touches on social and cultural anxieties that offer both historical and contemporary insights on our ongoing preoccupation with knowledge. Useful Knowledge will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth century history, literature, culture, the mediation of knowledge, and the history of science.
Behind the innocent face of Victorian fairy tales such as Through the Looking Glass or Mopsa the Fairy lurks the specter of an intense gender debate about the very nature of childhood. Offering brilliant rereadings of classics from the "Golden Age of Children's Literature" as well as literature commonly considered "grown-up," U. C. Knoepflmacher illuminates this debate, probing deeply into the relations between adults and children, adults and their own childhood selves, and the lives of beloved Victorian authors and their "children's tales." Ventures into Childland will delight and instruct all readers of children's classics, and will be essential reading for students of Victorian culture and gender studies.
"Ventures into Childland is acute, well written and stimulating. It also has a political purpose, to insist on the importance of protecting and nurturing children, imaginatively and physically."—Jan Marsh, Times Literary Supplement
"A provocative and interesting book about Victorian culture."—Library Journal
When Margaret Thatcher called in 1979 for a return to Victorian values such as hard work, self-reliance, thrift, and national pride, Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock responded that “Victorian values” also included “cruelty, misery, drudgery, squalor, and ignorance.”
The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror is an in-depth look at the ways that the twentieth century reacted to and reimagined its predecessor. It considers how the Victorian inheritance has been represented in literature, politics, film, and visual culture; the ways in which modernists and progressives have sought to differentiate themselves from an image of the Victorian; and how conservatives (and some liberals) have sought to revive elements of nineteenth-century life. Nostalgic and critical impulses combine to fix an understanding of the Victorians in the popular imagination.
Simon Joyce examines heritage culture, contemporary politics, and the “neo-Dickensian” novel to offer a more affirmative assessment of the Victorian legacy, one that lets us imagine a model of social interconnection and interdependence that has come under threat in today’s politics and culture.
Although more than one hundred years have passed since the death of Queen Victoria, the impact of her time is still fresh. The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror speaks to diverse audiences in literary and cultural studies, in addition to those interested in visual culture and contemporary politics, and situates detailed close readings of literary and cinematic texts in the context of a larger argument about the legacies of an era not as distant as we might like to think.