Essays on a Scandalous Genre
Edited by Kimberly Harrison and Richard Fantina
Literary Criticism/European/English, Irish
278 pp. 6x9
$29.95 paper 978-0-8142-5266-6
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“Victorian Sensations helps the reader grasp the cultural meanings of sensation fiction not just from an individual writer but as a genre in and of itself. It is a fine contribution to the field.” —Gail Houston, author of From Dickens to Dracula: Economics, Gothic, and Victorian Fiction
Wildly popular with Victorian readers, sensation fiction was condemned by most critics for scandalous content and formal features that deviated from respectable Victorian realism. Victorian Sensations is the first collection to examine sensation fiction as a whole, showing it to push genre boundaries and resist easy classification. Comprehensive in scope, this collection includes twenty original essays employing various critical approaches to cover a range of topics that will interest many readers. In addition to well-known novels such as The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, this volume addresses other works by Collins and Braddon as well as those of Sheridan Le Fanu, Rhoda Broughton, Charles Reade, Ellen (Mrs. Henry) Wood, and perhaps surprisingly, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.
Sensation literature, once considered one-dimensionally as a vehicle for contrived, plot-driven stories of mystery and intrigue, is shown here as a multi-faceted formal and ideological hybrid. Essays are organized thematically into three sections: issues of genre; sensational representations of gender and sexuality; and the texts’ complex readings of diverse social and cultural phenomena such as class, race, and empire. The introduction reviews critical reception of sensation fiction to situate these new essays within a larger scholarly context.
Victorian Sensations aims to further previous efforts to recognize sensation fiction as an integral part of Victorian literature and not as the subgenre that it has too long been considered. The collection’s broad scope indicates the breadth and complexity of the genre itself.
Kimberly Harrison is associate professor of English at Florida International University, Miami. Richard Fantina is an instructor of English at the University of Miami, Coral Gables.