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Marie-Luise Kohlke

Not infrequently today’s depictions of nineteenth-century interpersonal and intercultural conflict adopt a humorous approach to historical violence, even in the case of mass deaths and atrocities. Acts of killing are repurposed as useful means to achieve comic effects and elicit laughter. This chapter explores the ethical/unethical repercussions of what I term ‘killing humour’ in works by Peter Nichols, George MacDonald Fraser, and Amitav Ghosh, all of which focus on the Opium Wars, and the strategies of representation via which artists manipulate audience response for divergent ideological purposes. Neo-Victorian killing humour emerges as a problematic and paradoxical tool for engaging with traumatic histories, sometimes achieving unexpectedly ethical ends by seemingly unethical means.

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Megen de Bruin-Molé

This article situates the novel-as-mashup, first popularised by Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), within twenty-first-century neo-Victorianism. Using several key examples of these mashup texts, it embarks on a discussion of postmodernism’s ironic nostalgia, exploring the limits of such irony through questions of hermeneutics and ethics that are currently relevant in the field of neo-Victorian studies. Is it possible to find any stable meaning (or meaningful irony) in a text that is made up of other texts? What happens when texts are wilfully or inadvertently misread, and how do we approach instances where misreading causes harm, or reproduces problematic ideologies? Can texts that do not use the past seriously still be ironic, and if not, what does this mean for commercial, parodical genres like the novel-as-mashup?

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Miriam Elizabeth Burstein

As Thomas Vargish and others have reminded us, Victorian fiction regularly insisted, as an organising principle, that divine providence could be revealed in the unfolding of plot itself – most strikingly, through improbable coincidences (e.g., Jane Eyre washing up at her cousins’ home). Where most Victorian fiction frequently assumes that divine providence can organise even chaotic narratives, neo-Victorian fiction just as frequently narrates the comic breakdown of providence’s usefulness in both literary and historical storytelling. Yet this often results in an equally ironic and pessimistic assessment of secular alternatives. Robert Player’s Let’s Talk of Graves, of Worms, and Epitaphs (1975) and Isabelle Colegate’s The Summer of the Royal Visit (1991) both exemplify this strategy: their twentieth-century first-person narrators sardonically debunk Victorian claims to spiritual authority, but find themselves reaching for narrative omniscience when their own positions come under attack. By contrast, A.N. Wilson’s Gentlemen in England (1984) critiques neo-Victorian scepticism by endorsing a Christian comedy of redemption that celebrates the power of uncertainty.

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Dru Pagliassotti

The ‘mad scientist’ arose in Victorian literature in 1818 to warn readers of the perils of unrestrained science and technology. Nearly two hundred years of subsequent appearances in literature and film have firmly established the archetype of the male mad scientist in popular consciousness. Female mad scientists, however, have been much less common. Four relatively recent steampunk webcomics – Shaenon Garrity’s The Astonishing Excursions of Helen Narbon & Co.: Or, A Voyage to the Moon (2000–2006), Sydney Padua’s 2D Goggles: Or the Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage (2009–present), Erin Mehlos’s Next Town Over (2010–present), Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius (2001–present) – evolve the received stereotype, portraying female mad scientists as comic protagonists and deriving humour from their postmodern transgression of genre and gender stereotypes.

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Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben

Neo-Victorian humour demonstrates and invites equivocal responses to the nineteenth century and its continuing influence and resonances in the present, not all of them comic rather than serious. Much neo-Victorian humour can be conceptualised within the categories of the two dominant theories of humour – humour as superiority and humour as incongruity – while also supporting readings in terms of relief and play theories. Not infrequently, the various humorous modes collide in neo-Victorian works, as do ethical and unethical tendencies that allow for widely divergent, even paradoxical engagements with the period. While assisting self-definition through comic differentiation from the past, neo-Victorian humour also repeatedly collapses notions of Otherness to engineer ironic coincidences and collisions between nineteenth-century and postmodern subject positions.

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Edited by Charmian Brinson, Jana Barbora Buresova and Andrea Hammel

Volume 18 in the series Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies is entitled Exile and Gender II: Politics, Education and the Arts. It is edited by Charmian Brinson, Jana Barbora Buresova and Andrea Hammel, and is intended as a companion volume to Volume 17, which focused on literature and the press. This new volume considers the life and work of exiled women politicians, academics and artists, among others, examining the ways – both positive and negative - in which their exile affected them. The sixteen contributions, which are in English or German, set out to throw new light on aspects of gendered relations and experiences of women in exile in Great Britain and Ireland.

Contributors are: Jana Barbora Buresova, Rachel Dickson, Inge Hansen-Schaberg, Gisela Holfter, Hadwig Kraeutler, Ulrike Krippner, Dieter Krohn, Gertrud Lenz, Bea Lewkowicz, Sarah MacDougall, John March, Iris Meder, Irene Messenger, Merilyn Moos, Felicitas M. Starr-Egger, Jennifer Taylor, Gaby Weiner.

Georg Büchner

Contemporary Perspectives

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Edited by Robert Gillett, Ernest Schonfield and Daniel Steuer

Georg Büchner: Contemporary Perspectives examines the continuing relevance of Büchner in the early twenty-first century in terms of politics, science, philosophy, aesthetics, cultural studies and performance studies. It situates Büchner’s interdisciplinary work in relation to the philosophical, scientific and religious discourses of his time, while also investigating the ways in which Büchner’s intersectional writings anticipated – sometimes uncannily – questions and problems which were to become central concerns in modernism and after. The nineteen essays in the book, some in English and some in German, uniquely combine close readings of individual passages and images with wide-ranging intertextual comparisons, linking Büchner to more than twenty-five writers, thinkers and theoreticians from his time and ours.


Der Band Georg Büchner: Contemporary Perspectives beschäftigt sich mit Büchners anhaltender Aktualität in den Bereichen Politik, Naturwissenschaft, Philosophie, Ästhetik, Kulturwissenschaft und Theater. Er setzt Büchners interdisziplinäres Werk in Beziehung zu den philosophischen, naturwissenschaftlichen und religiösen Themen seiner Zeit, untersucht aber auch wie sein Schreiben auf manchmal verblüffende Weise Fragen und Probleme vorwegnimmt, die für die Moderne und die Nachmoderne bis zum heutigen Tag zentral werden sollten. Die neunzehn, teils auf Englisch, teils auf Deutsch verfassten Beiträge zeichnen sich dadurch aus, dass sie eingehende Einzelinterpretationen bestimmter Werkstellen mit weitreichenden intertextuellen Bezügen zu mehr als 25 SchriftstellerInnen, KünstlerInnen, DenkerInnen, und TheoretikerInnen verbinden.

Water in Social Imagination

from Technological Optimism to Contemporary Environmentalism

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Edited by Jane Costlow, Yrjö Haila and Arja Rosenholm

Water in Social Imagination considers how human communities have known, imagined and shaped water – and how water has shaped both material culture and the imagination. Essays from diverse perspectives offer histories of water at different scales – from community water wells and sacred springs to Siberian rivers and the regulated space of the Baltic Sea. From early modernization through Soviet style technological optimism to contemporary environmentalism, water’s ideological uses are multiple. With sustained attention not just to state policy and the technologies of high modernity, but to creative resistance to utilitarian imaginations, these essays insist on fluidities of meaning, ambiguities that derive both from water’s physical mutability and from its dual nature as life necessity and agent of destruction.