Book Cover

The Necromantics

Reanimation, the Historical Imagination, and Victorian British and Irish Literature

Renée Fox

300 pp. 6 x 9
Pub Date: April, 2023

Subjects: Victorian Studies
Literary Studies, 19th-Century
Literary Studies, British & Irish

order Hardcover $69.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-1549-4
Order PDF ebook$39.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-8291-5

Honorable Mention, 2024 ACIS Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Book

Listen to Renée Fox interviewed on New Books Network

“Wonderfully sensitive and provocative … Written with verve and wry humour, [The Necromantics] is as deeply invested in contemporary methodological debate as it is in Victorian poetics.” —Gordon Bigelow, Estudios Irlandeses

“This erudite study of reanimation in British and Irish literature and sentimental historiography from the late eighteenth century to the twenty-first century makes a welcome intervention into Victorian studies. … Fox’s extremely well-researched and illuminating study of the necromantic imagination will find eager audiences in scholars and graduate students in the fields of both Irish and British Victorian studies as well as scholars of the gothic and thanatology more generally.” —Colleen English, English Studies

“This work is an engaging and nuanced discussion of the ongoing literary urge to resurrect the past for contemporary purposes. Fox’s exploration of these ethical questions of reanimation is particularly effective in the context of Irish Revivalism … Its engaging style, as well as Fox’s delightfully quippy asides, make this an accessible and enjoyable study of the consistent through-line of English and Irish Victorian necromantics and a vibrant intervention in the continuing conversation of reparative reading practices.” —Zan Cammack, Nineteenth-Century Contexts

“Fox’s transformative interventions into Victorian studies and Irish studies persuasively reject necromancy as merely a feature of marginal gothic writing and instead realize it as a central literary strategy for potent theorizations of history, form, and distinctly political imaginaries.” —Amy Martin, author of Alter-Nations: Nationalisms, Terror, and the State in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland

The Necromantics is a powerfully argued account of the rhetoric and representation of reanimation in the nineteenth century. Fox’s important decision to take Victorian Irish literature seriously in its own right is both revolutionary and welcome.” —Patrick R. O’Malley, author of Liffey and Lethe: Paramnesiac History in Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Ireland

The Necromantics dwells on the literal afterlives of history. Reading the reanimated corpses—monstrous, metaphorical, and occasionally electrified—that Mary Shelley, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, W. B. Yeats, Bram Stoker, and others bring to life, Renée Fox argues that these undead figures embody the present’s desire to remake the past in its own image. Fox positions “necromantic literature” at a nineteenth-century intersection between sentimental historiography, medical electricity, imperial gothic monsters, and the Irish Literary Revival, contending that these unghostly bodies resist critical assumptions about the always-haunting power of history.

By considering Irish Revival texts within the broader scope of nineteenth-century necromantic works, The Necromantics challenges Victorian studies’ tendency to merge Irish and English national traditions into a single British whole, as well as Irish studies’ postcolonial efforts to cordon off a distinct Irish canon. Fox thus forges new connections between conflicting political, formal, and historical traditions. In doing so, she proposes necromantic literature as a model for a contemporary reparative reading practice that can reanimate nineteenth-century texts with new aesthetic affinities, demonstrating that any effective act of reading will always be an effort of reanimation.

Renée Fox is Assistant Professor in the Department of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.




Introduction        Necromantic Victorians

Chapter 1   How Frankenstein Got History

Chapter 2   Dickensian Zombies in Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend

Chapter 3   Robert Browning’s Necropoetics

Chapter 4   W. B. Yeats and the Necromantic Museum

Chapter 5   Bram Stoker’s Irish Mummy Gothic

Epilogue    The Undead Reader, or The Perils of Resuscitative Reading


Works Cited