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Studies by Time Period > 19th Century/Victorian Studies

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A Natural History of the Romance Novel Cover

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A Natural History of the Romance Novel

By Pamela Regis

The romance novel has the strange distinction of being the most popular but least respected of literary genres. While it remains consistently dominant in bookstores and on best-seller lists, it is also widely dismissed by the critical community. Scholars have alleged that romance novels help create subservient readers, who are largely women, by confining heroines to stories that ignore issues other than love and marriage.

Pamela Regis argues that such critical studies fail to take into consideration the personal choice of readers, offer any true definition of the romance novel, or discuss the nature and scope of the genre. Presenting the counterclaim that the romance novel does not enslave women but, on the contrary, is about celebrating freedom and joy, Regis offers a definition that provides critics with an expanded vocabulary for discussing a genre that is both classic and contemporary, sexy and entertaining.

Taking the stance that the popular romance novel is a work of literature with a brilliant pedigree, Regis asserts that it is also a very old, stable form. She traces the literary history of the romance novel from canonical works such as Richardson's Pamela through Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Brontë's Jane Eyre, and E. M. Hull's The Sheik, and then turns to more contemporary works such as the novels of Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Janet Dailey, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Nora Roberts.

On the Ruins of Babel Cover

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On the Ruins of Babel

Architectural Metaphor in German Thought

The eighteenth century struggled to define architecture as either an art or a science-the image of the architect as a grand figure who synthesizes all other disciplines within a single master plan emerged from this discourse. Immanuel Kant and Johann Wolfgang Goethe described the architect as their equal, a genius with godlike creativity. For writers from Descartes to Freud, architectural reasoning provided a method for critically examining consciousness. The architect, as philosophers liked to think of him, was obligated by the design and construction process to mediate between the abstract and the actual.

In On the Ruins of Babel, Daniel Purdy traces this notion back to its wellspring. He surveys the volatile state of architectural theory in the Enlightenment, brought on by the newly emerged scientific critiques of Renaissance cosmology, then shows how German writers redeployed Renaissance terminology so that "harmony," "unity," "synthesis," "foundation," and "orderliness" became states of consciousness, rather than terms used to describe the built world. Purdy's distinctly new interpretation of German theory reveals how metaphors constitute interior life as an architectural space to be designed, constructed, renovated, or demolished. He elucidates the close affinity between Hegel's Romantic aesthetic of space and Daniel Libeskind's deconstruction of monumental architecture in Berlin's Jewish Museum.

Through a careful reading of Walter Benjamin's writing on architecture as myth, Purdy details how classical architecture shaped Benjamin's modernist interpretations of urban life, particularly his elaboration on Freud's archaeology of the unconscious. Benjamin's essays on dreams and architecture turn the individualist sensibility of the Enlightenment into a collective and mythic identification between humans and buildings.

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Poe and the Visual Arts

By Barbara Cantalupo

Although Edgar Allan Poe is most often identified with stories of horror and fear, there is an unrecognized and even forgotten side of the writer. He was a self-declared lover of beauty, who “From childhood's hour...[had] not seen / As others saw.” Poe and the Visual Arts is the first comprehensive study of how the author’s work relates to the visual culture of his time, reprising Poe’s “deep worship of all beauty,” which resounds in his earliest writing and never entirely fades, despite the demands of his commercial writing career. Barbara Cantalupo examines the ways in which Poe integrated the visual art he knew into sketches, tales, and literary criticism, paying close attention to the sculptures and paintings he saw in books, magazines, and museums while living in Philadelphia and New York from 1838 until his death in 1849. She argues that Poe’s sensitivity to the visual media gives his writing a distinctive “graphicality” (Poe’s coinage). While Poe is most often associated with the macabre, Cantalupo shows how it was his enduring love of beauty and knowledge of the visual arts that enabled him to note and use what he saw as a writer.

Portraiture and British Gothic Fiction Cover

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Portraiture and British Gothic Fiction

The Rise of Picture Identification, 1764–1835

Kamilla Elliott

Traditionally, kings and rulers were featured on stamps and money; the titled and affluent commissioned busts and portraits; and criminals and missing persons appeared on wanted posters. British writers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, however, reworked ideas about portraiture to promote the value and agendas of the ordinary middle classes. According to Kamilla Elliott, our current practices of “picture identification” (driver’s licenses, passports, and so on) are rooted in these late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century debates. Portraiture and British Gothic Fiction examines ways writers such as Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, and C. R. Maturin as well as artists, historians, politicians, and periodical authors dealt with changes in how social identities were understood and valued in British culture—specifically, who was represented by portraits and how they were represented as they vied for social power. Elliott investigates multiple aspects of picture identification: its politics, epistemologies, semiotics, and aesthetics, and the desires and phobias that it produces. Her extensive research not only covers Gothic literature’s best-known and most studied texts but also engages with more than 100 Gothic works in total, expanding knowledge of first-wave Gothic fiction as well as opening new windows into familiar work.

Posting It Cover

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Posting It

The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing

Catherine J. Golden

Although "snail mail" may seem old fashioned and outdated in the twenty-first century, Catherine Golden argues that the creation of the Penny Post in Victorian England was just as revolutionary in its time as e-mail and text messages are today.

Until Queen Victoria instituted the Postal Reform Act of 1839, mail was a luxury affordable only by the rich. Allowing anyone, from any social class, to send a letter anywhere in the country for only a penny had multiple and profound cultural impacts.

Golden demonstrates how cheap postage--which was quickly adopted in other countries--led to a postal "network" that can be viewed as a forerunner of computer-mediated communications. Indeed, the revolution in letter writing of the nineteenth century led to blackmail, frauds, unsolicited mass mailings, and junk mail--problems that remain with us today.

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Romantic Hospitality and the Resistance to Accommodation

What does hospitality have to do with Romanticism? What are the conditions of a Romantic welcome? Romantic Hospitality and the Resistance to Accommodation traces the curious passage of strangers through representative texts of English Romanticism, while also considering some European philosophical “pre-texts” of this tradition. From Rousseau’s invocation of the cot-less Carib to Coleridge’s reception of his Porlockian caller, Romanticisms encounters with the “strange” remind us that the hospitable relation between subject and Other is invariably fraught with problems.

Drawing on recent theories of accommodation and estrangement, Peter Melville argues that the texts of Romantic hospitality (including those of Rousseau, Kant, Coleridge, and Mary Shelley) are often troubled by the subject’s failure to welcome the Other without also exposing the stranger to some form of hostility or violence. Far from convincing Romantic writers to abandon the figure of hospitality, this failure invites them instead to articulate and theorize a paradoxical imperative governing the subject’s encounters with strangers: if the obligation to welcome the Other is ultimately impossible to fulfill, then it is also impossible to ignore. This paradox is precisely what makes Romantic hospitality an act of responsibility.

Romantic Hospitality and the Resistance to Accommodation brings together the wide-ranging interests of hospitality theory, diet studies, and literary ethics within a single investigation of visitation and accommodation in the Romantic period. As re-visionary as it is interdisciplinary, the book demonstrates not only the extent to which we continue to be influenced by Romantic views of the stranger but also, more importantly, what Romanticism has to teach us about our own hospitable obligations within this heritage.

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Victorian Periodicals Review

Vol. 38 (2005) through current issue

The only refereed journal that concentrates on the editorial and publishing history of Victorian periodicals, Victorian Periodicals Review (VPR) emphasizes the importance of periodicals and newspapers in the history and culture of Victorian Britain, Ireland, and the British Empire. VPR includes informative articles from a variety of disciplines as well as book reviews, a biennial bibliography, and essays on cutting-edge developments in pedagogy and the digitization of periodicals. VPR is the official journal of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals.

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Victorian Poetry

Vol. 38 (2000) through current issue

Founded in 1962 to further the aesthetic study of the poetry of the Victorian period (1830-1914) in Britain, Victorian Poetry today publishes articles from a broad range of theoretical/critical angles, including but not confined to new historicism, feminism, and social/cultural issues. The journal has expanded its purview from the major figures of Victorian England (Tennyson, Browning, the Rossettis, etc.) to a wider compass of poets of all classes and gender indentifications in nineteenth-century Britain and the Commonwealth.

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Victorian Review

Vol. 35 (2009) through current issue

Victorian Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Victorian Studies welcomes submissions in all areas of Victorian studies. Our mandate is to publish the best original international research in this interdisciplinary field, as well as to provide critical reviews of new books in Victorian studies by experts from around the world. Finally, our regular Victorian Review forum provides a unique venue in which diverse scholarly voices may address a topic from multiple points of view.

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Victorian Studies

Vol. 42, no. 2 (1999/00) through current issue

Victorian Studies, which began publication in 1956, is devoted to the study of English culture of the Victorian period. It includes interdisciplinary articles on comparative literature, social and political history, and the histories of education, philosophy, fine arts, economics, law, and science.

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