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The Victorian Tradition and the Contemporary British Novel
Why do so many contemporary British novels revert to the Victorian tradition in order to find a new source of inspiration? What does it mean from an ideological point of view to build a modern form of art by resurrecting and recycling an art of the past? From a formal point of view what are the aesthetic priorities established by these postmodernist novels? Those are the main questions tackled by this study intended for anybody interested in the aesthetic and ideological evolution of very recent fiction.
What this analysis ultimately proposes is a reevaluation and a redefinition of postmodernism such as it is illustrated by the British novels which paradoxically both praise and mock, honour and debunk, imitate and subvert their Victorian models. Unashamedly opportunistic and deliberately exploiting the spirit of the time, this late form of postmodernism cannibalizes and reshapes not only Victorianism but all the other previous aesthetic movements - including early postmodernism.

Starting with the idea that neo-Victorianism’s humour privileges an intertextual form of irony typical of postmodernism, this chapter argues that the association of humour and Gothic produces a critical distance towards Gothic texts and tropes a detached perspective which is also an efficient anti-nostalgic device. What a humorous treatment of Victorian Gothic also allows is an ontological reconsideration of the concepts of otherness, the uncanny and the monstrous, precisely because humour encourages a reflexive attitude. The result of the playful hybridisation of humour and Victorian Gothic is a new novelistic species in keeping with the neo-Victorian cult of heterosis. Humour creating hermeneutic ambiguity and Gothic relying on conceptual uncertainty, the association of the two necessarily increases textual indeterminacy, and it is the challenge of this interpretative plurality that explains critics’ continued interest in the puzzles of neo-Victorian Gothic.

In: Neo-Victorian Gothic
Contemporary works of art that remodel the canon not only create complex, hybrid and plural products but also alter our perceptions and understanding of their source texts. This is the dual process, referred to in this volume as “refraction”, that the essays collected here set out to discuss and analyse by focusing on the dialectic rapport between postmodernism and the canon. What is sought in many of the essays is a redefinition of postmodernist art and a re-examination of the canon in the light of contemporary epistemology. Given this dual process, this volume will be of value both to everyone interested in contemporary art—particularly fiction, drama and film—and also to readers whose aim it is to promote a better appreciation of canonical British literature.

This chapter sets out to explore the correspondences between Victorian and postmodern situations of trauma. Through its refutation of Enlightenment values postmodernism gave rise to a traumatic sense of loss, which in turn created a need to find sources of solace and also of comparison – since trauma invites compassion for other forms of trauma, just as specific victims are more likely to feel compassion for other types of victim. And because the Victorian (rather than the modernist) period represents, phantasmally and mistakenly of course, the period before the fragmentation of the self and of the novel, it is toward the Victorian tradition that postmodernism turns as a source of comfort. Alternatively, it might be because the imperial losses and crises of Victorianism are still acute today that the contemporary arts ceaselessly return to and work through these unfinished traumas. Whatever the preferred explanation, the (re)integration of a historical comparative paradigm entails a return to ethics in the sense that the self constantly extends to the other. The rediscovery of the historical other as part of the contemporary self creates a sense of exhilaration, which conveys a new vitality to a new ethical form of postmodernism.

In: Neo-Victorian Tropes of Trauma
In: Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film
In: Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film
In: Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film
In: Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film
The Neo-Victorian Series aims to analyse the complex revival, re-vision and recycling of the long nineteenth century in the cultural imaginary. This contemporary phenomenon will be examined in its diverse British and worldwide, postcolonial and neo-colonial contexts, as well as its manifold forms, including literature, the arts, film, television, and virtual media. To assess such simultaneous artistic regeneration and retrogressive innovation and to tackle the ethical debate and ideological consequences of these re-appropriations will constitute the main challenges of this series.

Authors are cordially invited to submit proposals and/or full manuscripts to the publisher at BRILL, Masja Horn.

The Neo-Victorian Series aims to analyse the complex revival, re-vision and recycling of the long nineteenth century in the cultural imaginary. This contemporary phenomenon will be examined in its diverse British and worldwide, postcolonial and neo-colonial contexts, as well as its manifold forms, including literature, the arts, film, television, and virtual media. To assess such simultaneous artistic regeneration and retrogressive innovation and to tackle the ethical debate and ideological consequences of these re-appropriations will constitute the main challenges of this series.

Authors are cordially invited to submit proposals and/or full manuscripts to the publisher at BRILL, Masja Horn.