State University of New York Press

SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century

Pamela K. Gilbert

Published by: State University of New York Press

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SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century

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Altered States

Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism

Altered States examines the rise of Spiritualism—the religion of séances, mediums, and ghostly encounters—in the Victorian period and the role it played in undermining both traditional female roles and the rhetoric of imperialism. Focusing on a particular kind of séance event—the full-form materialization—and the bodies of the young, female mediums who performed it, Marlene Tromp argues that in the altered state of the séance new ways of understanding identity and relationships became possible. This not only demonstrably shaped the thinking of the Spiritualists, but also the popular consciousness of the period. In diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, scientific reports, and popular fiction, Tromp uncovers evidence that the radical views presented in the faith permeated and influenced mainstream Victorian thought.

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Beasts of Burden

Biopolitics, Labor, and Animal Life in British Romanticism

Ron Broglio

Uses literature, art, and cultural texts from the British Romantic period to explore the age in which biological life and its abilities first became regulated by the rising nation.

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Living Forms

Romantics and the Monumental Figure

Based on years of archival research in various British and American libraries, Living Forms examines the early nineteenth century’s fascination with representations of the human form, particularly those from the past, which, having no adequate verbal explanatory text, are vulnerable to having their meanings erased by time. The author explores a variety of such representations and responses to them, including Coleridge’s Shakespeare lectures, Hazlitt’s essays on portraits, Keats’s poems on mythic and sculpted figures, meditations by Byron’s Childe Harold on the monuments of Italy, Felicia Hemans’s verses on monuments to and by women, and Shelley’s poems and letters on figures from Italy, Egypt, and other antique lands. Haley argues that in what has been called the “museum age,” Romantics sought aesthetically to frame these figures as “living forms,” mental images capable of realization in alternate modes or forms.

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Mapping the Victorian Social Body

The cholera epidemics that plagued London in the nineteenth century were a turning point in the science of epidemiology and public health, and the use of maps to pinpoint the source of the disease initiated an explosion of medical and social mapping not only in London but throughout the British Empire as well. Mapping the Victorian Social Body explores the impact of such maps on Victorian and, ultimately, present-day perceptions of space. Tracing the development of cholera mapping from the early sanitary period to the later “medical” period of which John Snow’s work was a key example, the book explores how maps of cholera outbreaks, residents’ responses to those maps, and the novels of Charles Dickens, who drew heavily on this material, contributed to an emerging vision of London as a metropolis. The book then turns to India, the metropole’s colonial other and the perceived source of the disease. In India, the book argues, imperial politics took cholera mapping in a wholly different direction and contributed to Britons’ perceptions of Indian space as quite different from that of home. The book concludes by tracing the persistence of Victorian themes in current discourse, particularly in terms of the identification of large cities with cancerous growth and of Africa with AIDS.

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Nervous Reactions

Victorian Recollections of Romanticism

Nervous Reactions considers Victorian responses to Romanticism, particularly the way in which the Romantic period was frequently constructed in Victorian-era texts as a time of nervous or excitable authors (and readers) at odds with Victorian values of self-restraint, moderation, and stolidity. Represented in various ways—as a threat to social order, as a desirable freedom of feeling, as a pathological weakness that must be cured—this nervousness, both about and of the Romantics, is an important though as yet unaddressed concern in Victorian responses to Romantic texts. By attending to this nervousness, the essays in this volume offer a new consideration not only of the relationship between the Victorian and Romantic periods, but also of the ways in which our own responses to Romanticism have been mediated by this Victorian attention to Romantic excitability. Considering editions and biographies as well as literary and critical responses to Romantic writers, the volume addresses a variety of discursive modes and genres, and brings to light a number of authors not normally included in the longstanding category of “Victorian Romanticism”: on the Romantic side, not just Wordsworth, Keats, and P. B. Shelley but also Byron, S. T. Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey, Mary Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft; and on the Victorian side, not just Thomas Carlyle and the Brownings but also Sara Coleridge, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Archibald Lampman, and J. S. Mill.

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Romantic Science

The Literary Forms of Natural History

Although “romantic science” may sound like a paradox, much of the romance surrounding modern science—the mad scientist, the intuitive genius, the utopian transformation of nature—originated in the Romantic period. Romantic Science traces the literary and cultural politics surrounding the formation of the modern scientific disciplines emerging from eighteenth-century natural history. Revealing how scientific concerns were literary concerns in the Romantic period, the contributors uncover the vital role that new discoveries in earth, plant, and animal sciences played in the period’s literary culture. As Thomas Pennant put it in 1772, “Natural History is, at present, the favourite science over all Europe, and the progress which has been made in it will distinguish and characterise the eighteenth century in the annals of literature.” As they examine the social and literary ramifications of a particular branch or object of natural history, the contributors to this volume historicize our present intellectual landscape by reimagining and redrawing the disciplinary boundaries between literature and science.

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Virginia Woolf and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Novel

In Virginia Woolf and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Novel, Emily Blair explores how nineteenth-century descriptions of femininity saturate both Woolf’s fiction and her modernist manifestos. Moving between the Victorian and modernist periods, Blair looks at a range of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century sources, including the literature of conduct and household management, as well as autobiography, essay, poetry, and fiction. She argues for a reevaluation of Woolf’s persistent yet vexed fascination with English domesticity and female creativity by juxtaposing the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell and Margaret Oliphant, two popular Victorian novelists, against Woolf’s own novels and essays. Blair then traces unacknowledged lines of influence and complex interpretations that Woolf attempted to disavow. While reconsidering Woolf’s analysis of women and fiction, Blair simultaneously deepens our appreciation of Woolf’s work and advances our understanding of feminine aesthetics.

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