Neo-Victorian Mortalities

Speakers:

Karen Dodsworth, Teesside University – ‘Life after Death: Representations of Mourning in Neo-Victorian Fiction’

Dr Helen Davies, Newman University – ‘Picking over the Bones? Neo-Victorian Freakery and the politics of post-mortem exhibition’

Dr Claire Nally, Northumbria University – ‘Cross Bones graveyard: excavating the prostitute in Neo-Victorian popular culture’
Negotiating with the dead, to use Margaret Atwood’s phrase,(1) is a central feature of neo-Victorianism. The significance of haunting, spectrality, and mediumship for the genre has been discussed by numerous critics, both in terms of themes in neo-Victorian texts and as a metaphor for the impulses of neo-Victorian authors to resurrect the past. It is in the notion of ‘resurrection’ that such engagements with dead Victorians might take on a more sinister turn, for, as Mark Llewellyn has suggested,(2) neo-Victorianism’s appropriation of historical figures as ‘fictional’ characters might become associated with grave-robbing. Put another way, can neo-Victorianism be accused of exploiting the (after)lives of nineteenth-century subjects for entertainment or material gain? This panel will address these issues from several perspectives: fiction, exhibition and notions of the freak show; documentary and TV representations of archaeology; gender and mourning in Neo-Victorian literary texts.

(1)Margaret Atwood, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
(2) Mark Llewellyn, ‘Neo-Victorianism: On the Ethics and Aesthetics of Appropriation’. In Rebecca Munford and Paul Young (eds), Engaging the Victorians, special issue of LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory, 20:1-2 (2009), pp. 27-44; p. 38.

Wednesday 5th July, 5.00