The Neo-Victorian Novel, 1990-2010
The final decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first witnessed a surge of published novels with direct and indirect connection to the Victorian era, at a time when a focus on the new millenium might have been expected. This proliferation of what came to be termed 'neo-Victorian novels' shows no sign of abating and has now given rise to scholarly research on the subject. The principal aim of this thesis is to examine the rise of the neo-Victorian novel during the period in question. After an introduction which situates the phenomenon within relevant theoretical and cultural contexts, the following chapter attempts to provide a sense of the thematic range of neo-Victorian novels through an original 'catalogue' of more than one hundred neo-Victorian novels, adopting the received neo-Victorian theoretical stance which believes that what neo-Victorian novels write about demonstrates contemporary concerns and contemporary attitudes to the Victorian as much as it attempts an accurate portrayal of a historical period. This is followed by three further chapters which focus on different structural forms in presenting 'Victorian' material: the pastiche, the split narrative and the re-write versions of the neo-Victorian novel. A core contention of the thesis is that the comparison of three different novel forms, allied to the examination of thematic areas of interest, exposes the contradictory impulse which lies at the heart of the neo-Victorian enterprise. While the continuing popularity of neo-Victorian fictions indicates a desire for a sense of continuing connection to Victorian forbears, imagined or actual, the insistence on plots which play to modern interests and sensibilities suggests that the Victorians have to 'fit' with us rather than the other way round. The various forms that the neo-Victorian novel adopts carry their own postmodern means of undermining the credibility of the Victorian world under construction.
- PhD