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

“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