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Victorian Reformations

Historical Fiction and Religious Controversy, 1820-1900

Miriam Elizabeth Burstein

Publication Year: 2013

In Victorian Reformations: Historical Fiction and Religious Controversy, 1820-1900, Miriam Elizabeth Burstein analyzes the ways in which Christian novelists across the denominational spectrum laid claim to popular genres—most importantly, the religious historical novel—to narrate the aftershocks of 1829, the year of Catholic Emancipation. Both Protestant and Catholic popular novelists fought over the ramifications of nineteenth-century Catholic toleration for the legacy of the Reformation. But despite the vast textual range of this genre, it remains virtually unknown in literary studies. Victorian Reformations is the first book to analyze how “high” theological and historical debates over the Reformation’s significance were popularized through the increasingly profitable venue of Victorian religious fiction. By putting religious apologists and controversialists at center stage, Burstein insists that such fiction—frequently dismissed as overly simplistic or didactic—is essential for our understanding of Victorian popular theology, history, and historical novels. Burstein reads “lost” but once exceptionally popular religious novels—for example, by Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Lady Georgiana Fullerton, and Emily Sarah Holt—against the works of such now-canonical figures as Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot, while also drawing on material from contemporary sermons, histories, and periodicals. Burstein demonstrates how these novels, which popularized Christian visions of change for a mass readership, call into question our assumptions about the nineteenth-century historical novel. In addition, her research and her conceptual frameworks have the potential to influence broader paradigms in Victorian studies and novel criticism.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to my colleagues at the College at Brockport, StateUniversity of New York, for providing a most congenial place to work,and to the college itself for funding multiple research trips in both theUnited States and abroad. The interlibrary loan department at DrakeLibrary was, once again, indefatigable in turning up even the most...

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pp. 1-22

Victorian Protestants of all denominations insisted that withoutthe Reformation, there would be no economic success, no intellectualand scientific growth, no political liberty?in other words, no modernBritain. And yet, the Reformation?s success apparently foretold itsundoing. ?As Protestants we had greatly lost, through disuse and long...

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Chapter 1: Scott's Reformations

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pp. 23-52

...and the Catholic priest Father Eustace (old acquaintances, as it hap-pens) prepare to square off for a no-holds-barred controversial spatover a prooftext. Warden yearns to offer Father Eustace help to ?layhold on the Rock of Ages?; Father Eustace, icily, declares that ?myfaith is already anchored on that Rock on which Saint Peter founded...

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Chapter 2: The “Morning Star” Of The Reformation: The Victorian Cult of John de Wycliffe

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pp. 53-78

The Lollards are gone to their rest; but they have bequeathed their cause.Four centuries have rolled away, and times and fashions have altered; but the cause essentially is now what it was then,?of Christ against of the Bible against Rome. Theirs was severer?ours is easier work.Reformers, but he nevertheless insisted that Protestant modernity put...

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Chapter 3: “The Word Of Life Lies Open Before Us”: Reading the Reformation Bible in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 79-110

As we have seen, Wycliffe?s fascination for Victorian readers de-rived, in part, from his role as Bible translator and disseminator of thescriptures to the common people. But, paradoxically, a number of Vic-torians complained that the Wycliffite and Reformation projects hadbeen too successful: the Bible had turned into just another object be-...

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Chapter 4: Reinventing The Marian Persecutions In Victorian England

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pp. 111-140

...tants saw no heretics burning at the stake, no racks, no fearful impris-onments. In mainstream culture this provoked a rather skeptical, evensardonic, take on the minor deprivations that constituted what passedfor nineteenth-century martyrdom, along with a more intense debateover whether the term could be applied to those Anglo-Catholic cler-...

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Chapter 5: Unnoticed Persecutions: Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics, and the Reformation Tale

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pp. 141-182

...?I would rather live in rags like thee, with the memories of the past tosweeten my hard and bitter crust, than sit on a throne without them. They may persecute us, beggar us, trample us; but they cannot wrenchfrom us the history of the past?that dominion of thought?that lies Spaewife (1853), the brave young Catholic Alice Wentworth insists...

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Chapter 6: Rejecting The Controversial Historical Novel: Barnaby Rudge

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pp. 183-202

At first glance, Charles Dickens?s Barnaby Rudge(1841), set dur-ing the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780, maps exactly onto the in-tellectual and formal concerns of Reformation tales: it addresses therole of toleration in shaping religious and national identity, the histori -cal grounds of nineteenth-century Protestant belief, and the problem-...

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Coda: Savonarola’s Reformation Fails

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pp. 203-218

...of the Reformation while warning against the ever-present possibilityof its present-day failure, and Catholics arguing that failure lurked atthe heart of the Reformation project from its very beginning. I want toconclude with Protestant attempts in the second half of the century towrestle with a nation whose history appeared to contradict narratives...


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pp. 219-262


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pp. 263-292


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pp. 293-300

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About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 301-302

Miriam Elizabeth Burstein is associate professor of English at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. She is the author of Narrating Women’s History in Britain, 1770–1902.

E-ISBN-13: 9780268075934
E-ISBN-10: 026807593X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268022389
Print-ISBN-10: 0268022380

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 869303836
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Victorian Reformations

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Subject Headings

  • Christianity in literature.
  • English fiction -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Historical fiction, English -- History and criticism.
  • Religion in literature.
  • Christian fiction, English -- History and criticism.
  • Books and reading -- England -- History -- 19th century.
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