Neo-Victorian Tropes of Trauma

The Politics of Bearing After-Witness to Nineteenth-Century Suffering


This collection constitutes the first volume in Rodopi’s Neo-Victorian Series, which explores the prevalent but often problematic re-vision of the long nineteenth century in contemporary culture. Here is presented for the first time an extended analysis of the conjunction of neo-Victorian fiction and trauma discourse, highlighting the significant interventions in collective memory staged by the belated aesthetic working-through of historical catastrophes, as well as their lingering traces in the present. The neo-Victorian’s privileging of marginalised voices and its contestation of master-narratives of historical progress construct a patchwork of competing but equally legitimate versions of the past, highlighting on-going crises of existential extremity, truth and meaning, nationhood and subjectivity. This volume will be of interest to both researchers and students of the growing field of neo-Victorian studies, as well as scholars in memory studies, trauma theory, ethics, and heritage studies. It interrogates the ideological processes of commemoration and forgetting and queries how the suffering of cultural and temporal others should best be represented, so as to resist the temptations of exploitative appropriation and voyeuristic spectacle. Such precarious negotiations foreground a central paradox: the ethical imperative to bear after-witness to history’s silenced victims in the face of the potential unrepresentability of extreme suffering.
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Review Quotes

"What is exciting about the book is that it succeeds in breaking new critical ground by way of theme and primary material discussed. It provides timely address to questions of ethics raised by neo-Victorianism’s appropriation of the past together with innovative analyses of texts that may yet have received little critical discussion in relation to the field." – Kim Bryndle, OScholars, 2012
"The volume is outstanding and undoubtedly represents a landmark for the study of Neo-Victorian fiction." – Isabel M. Andrés Cuevas, University of Granada, in: Miscelánea: a Journal of English and American Studies 44 (2011), pp. 161-6
"The volume covers an important gap in the state of the art in neo-Victorian studies, as it offers in-depth analyses, from the perspective of trauma theory, of a significant number of neo-Victorian fictions published between the 1960s and the present…running all the spectrum from the collective physical and psychological traumas associated with the armed conflicts and the spread of Empire, to individual and more covert family traumas, like incest, or ideological traumas related to the confrontation of religious belief and Darwinian science." – Susana Onega, University of Zaragoza, Spain

Table of contents

Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben: Introduction: Bearing After-Witness to the Nineteenth Century
Poethics and Existential Extremity: Crises of Faith, Identity, and Sexuality
Christian Gutleben and Julian Wolfreys: Postmodernism Revisited: The Ethical Drive of Postmodern Trauma in Neo-Victorian Fiction
Georges Letissier: Trauma by Proxy in the “Age of Testimony”: Paradoxes of Darwinism in the Neo-Victorian Novel
Catherine Pesso-Miquel: Apes and Grandfathers: Traumas of Apostasy and Exclusion in John Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Graham Swift’s Ever After
Mark Llewellyn: ‘Perfectly innocent, natural, playful’: Incest in Neo-Victorian Women’s Writing
History’s Victims and Victors: Crises of Truth and Memory
Dianne F. Sadoff: The Neo-Victorian Nation at Home and Abroad: Charles Dickens and Traumatic Rewriting
Vanessa Guignery: Photography, Trauma and the Politics of War in Beryl Bainbridge’s Master Georgie
Celia Wallhead and Marie-Luise Kohlke: The Neo-Victorian Frame of Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas: Temporal and Traumatic Reverberations
Kate Mitchell: Australia’s ‘Other’ History Wars: Trauma and the Work of Cultural Memory in Kate Grenville’s The Secret River
Contesting Colonialism: Crises of Nationhood, Empire and Afterimages
Ann Heilmann: Famine, Femininity, Family: Rememory and Reconciliation in Nuala O’Faolain’s My Dream of You
Elisabeth Wesseling: Unmanning Exoticism: The Breakdown of Christian Manliness in The Book of the Heathen
Elodie Rousselot: Turmoil, Trauma and Mourning in Jane Urquhart’s The Whirlpool
Marie-Luise Kohlke: Tipoo’s Tiger on the Loose: Neo-Victorian Witness-Bearing and the Trauma of the Indian Mutiny