The Revisionary Influence: Neo-Victorian Fiction and the Past RedeemedJournal: Athens Journal of Philology (Vol.2, No. 4)
Publication Date: 2015-12-01
Authors : Aleksandra Tryniecka;
Page : 255-264
Keywords : Victorian Fiction; Neo-Victorian Fiction; Victorian Culture; Bakhtin; Dialogism; Revision; Revival of the Past;
According to James Eli Adams, ‘the novel is an extraordinarily rich guide to Victorian culture” (O’Gorman, 2005, p. 52). Hence, the novel offers innumerable possibilities to encode and decode the past. While the Victorian era allowed the novel to enter the domestic sphere and initiated the development of the community of readers, it simultaneously influenced the modern reading habits (ibid., p. 3). Presently, neo-Victorian literature provides the revision of nineteenth-century fiction. As observed by Kate Mitchell, “the literature and culture of the Victorian period have been courted, sought and summoned across many facets of contemporary culture for more than three decades” (Mitchell, 2010, p. 3). In addition, Mitchell poses a question whether modern literature can “recreate the [Victorian] past in a meaningful way” or whether it is only capable of introducing the “nineteenth-century dress-ups” (ibid., p. 3). In my paper, I would like to examine the reciprocal relations between the Victorian and neo-Victorian fiction in order to account for the modern interest in the revival of the nineteenth-century past. Moreover, I argue that the interest in neo-Victorian texts proves that the revision of the past is necessary for the analysis of the present. Simultaneously, I claim that the modern revisionary fiction is not only a “dress-up,” but also an endeavour to decode the past anew. While analysing the popular Victorian novelistic topics (including social hierarchy, family values, industrialism, crisis, disbelief, morality, marriage, money, spiritualism, visuality, disguises, double standards and performance), I argue that they are still valid and present in the modern era and, thus, deserve rethinking in the new context. On the whole, I claim that modern society is still rooted in the Victorian dilemmas and thus relies on the reassuring revival of the past. While literature emerges as the reliable link to the past, it serves as the contemporary tool of revision. In my study, I use Bakthin’s theory of dialogism and such critical sources as: Kate Mitchell’s History and Cultural Memory in Neo-Victorian Fiction, John R. Reed’s Victorian Conventions, Francis O’Gorman’s A Concise Companion to the Victorian Novel and Brantlinger’s A Companion to the Victorian Novel.
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