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Texts in Dialogue: Domesticating the Past

Journal: Athens Journal of Philology (Vol.1, No. 3)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 173-182

Keywords : ;

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The rise of neo-Victorian literature can be linked to the growing interest in the dialogue with the past. Dialogue, the concept highlighted by M. M. Bakhtin in his study of the novel, accounts for the emergence of Neo-Victorian literature. Referring to their Victorian counterparts, Neo-Victorian texts show that the twentyfirst century literature reader is still anchored in the reality belonging to the past. As aptly indicated by Philip Davis in his Why Victorian Literature Still Matters, Victorian texts are placed “psychologically as well as historically in transition” (qtd. in Brown, 148). Hence, they are never outdated and always topical, both for the past and present readers. Philip Davis refers to a “(...) place in the mind that makes the experience of Victorian literature always matter” (qtd. in Brown, 148). This transitional value of Victorian texts seems to secure the contemporary interest in revisioning the nineteenth century literature from the modern perspective. Thus, the attempt at introducing Victorian texts into the modern reader’s context can be perceived as an endeavour to (re)define the past by means of the present. The Neo-Victorian novels such as Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) or Syrie James’ The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë (2009) highlight the apparent inconclusiveness of the literary past, as well as the necessity to revise it. Thus, in my paper, I would like to examine the issue of negotiating the literary past through revision. Moreover, I would like to argue that understanding the literary past is strictly dependent on the process of “domesticating” it. Based on Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism, I argue that neo-Victorian literature emerges in the perpetual process of retelling the literary Victorian past from various perspectives. Therefore, the process of retelling seems to become the paramount, undogmatic force shaping the literary discourse in neo-Victorian works.

Last modified: 2015-07-01 19:46:44