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Victorian Afterlife

Postmodern Culture Rewrites the Nineteenth Century

2000

John Kucich and Dianne F. Sadoff, editors

Victorian Afterlife

A foundational look at contemporary uses of the Victorian and the presence of the past in postmodern culture.

Major critical thinkers have found in the nineteenth century the origins of contemporary consumerism, sexual science, gay culture, and feminism. And postmodern theory, which once drove a wedge between contemporary interpretation and its historical objects, has lately displayed a new self-consciousness about its own appropriations of the past. This diverse collection of essays begins a long-overdue discussion of how postmodernism understands the Victorian as its historical predecessor.

Contributors: Nancy Armstrong, Ian Baucom, Jay Clayton, Mary A. Favret, Simon Gikandi, Jennifer Green-Lewis, Kali Israel, Laurie Langbauer, Susan Lurie, John McGowan, Judith Roof, Hilary M. Schor, Ronald R. Thomas, and Shelton Waldrep.

Victorian Afterlife’s project is more than timely—to explore late postmodernism’s obsession with the Victorians. Fifteen essays consider this fixation on the nineteenth-century past in literary and popular culture. The essays cross multiple histories: photography, film, the pastiche Victorian novel, techniques of exhibition and display, the discourse of the computer, Queen Victoria and modern feminism, colonial history, and the sexualities of versions of Alice in Wonderland. This richness will make the book a central text for inquiries into the Victorian.

Times Literary Supplement

Celebrated films by Francis Ford Coppola, Jane Campion, and Ang Lee; best-selling novels by A. S. Byatt and William Gibson; revivals of Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll’s Alice, and nostalgic photography; computer graphics and cyberpunk performances: contemporary culture, high and low, has fallen in love with the nineteenth century. Major critical thinkers have found in the period the origins of contemporary consumerism, sexual science, gay culture, and feminism. And postmodern theory, which once drove a wedge between contemporary interpretation and its historical objects, has lately displayed a new self-consciousness about its own appropriations of the past. This diverse collection of essays begins a long-overdue discussion of how postmodernism understands the Victorian as its historical predecessor.

Contributors: Nancy Armstrong, Brown U; Ian Baucom, Duke U; Jay Clayton, Vanderbilt U; Mary A. Favret, Indiana U; Simon Gikandi, U of Michigan; Jennifer Green-Lewis, George Washington U; Kali Israel, U of Michigan; Laurie Langbauer, U of North Carolina; Susan Lurie, Rice U; John McGowan, U of North Carolina; Judith Roof, Indiana U; Hilary M. Schor, USC; Ronald R. Thomas, Trinity College; and Shelton Waldrep, U of Southern Maine.

Victorian Afterlife

John Kucich is professor of English at the University of Michigan.

Dianne F. Sadoff is chair and professor of English at Miami University.

Victorian Afterlife

Victorian Afterlife’s project is more than timely—to explore late postmodernism’s obsession with the Victorians. Fifteen essays consider this fixation on the nineteenth-century past in literary and popular culture. The essays cross multiple histories: photography, film, the pastiche Victorian novel, techniques of exhibition and display, the discourse of the computer, Queen Victoria and modern feminism, colonial history, and the sexualities of versions of Alice in Wonderland. This richness will make the book a central text for inquiries into the Victorian.

Times Literary Supplement

This well-titled collection is obsessed with death and resurrection: it’s raison d’être is the contemporary ‘afterlife’ of things Victorian, from underwear to public history, its promise the indisputable primacy of the memory of the (mainly British) 19th century in the discourses of contemporary US popular culture. A deep, learned, and playful book. All of the essays are good. Arresting cover art, readable notes.

Choice

Unexpected and fresh; a good balance is struck between unexplored subjects and the anticipated but necessary topic. This volume fills a previously empty space in Victorianist commentary. It is original and long-overdue in its attention to the subject of how the explosion of “postmodern Victoriana” might be understood in relation to what the editors, citing Frederic James, call our ‘postmodern historical crisis’.

South Central Review

Victorian Afterlife

contents

Introduction

Histories of the Present
Dianne F. Sadoff and John Kucich
mystifications
Modernity and Culture, the Victorians and Cultural Studies John McGowan
At Home in the Nineteenth Century: Photography, Nostalgia, and the Will to Authenticity Jennifer Green-Lewis
The Uses and Misuses of Oscar Wilde Shelton Waldrep
Being True to Jane Austen Mary A. Favret
A Twentieth-Century Portrait: Jane Campion's American Girl Susan Lurie
Display Cases Judith Roof
engagements
Found Drowned: The Irish Atlantic Ian Baucom
The Embarrassment of Victorianism: Colonial Subjects and the Lure of Englishness Simon Gikandi
Hacking the Nineteenth Century Jay Clayton
Queen Victoria and Me Laurie Langbauer
Sorting, Morphing, and Mourning: A. S. Byatt Ghostwrites Victorian Fiction Hilary M.Schor
Asking Alice: Victorian and Other Alices in Contemporary Culture Kali Israel
Specters of the Novel: Draculaand the Cinematic Afterlife of the Victorian Novel Ronald R.Thomas

Postscript
Contemporary Culturalism: How Victorian Is It? Nancy Armstrong

Contributors

Index