By Simon Joyce
“Joyce offers a fascinating range of case studies of writers, film-makers and politicians who have appropriated the culture and ideas of the nineteenth century in the wake of English Modernism.... A rich work that suggests why those eminent Victorians remain so immanent.”
The Times Literary Supplement
“(Joyce) is not interpreting the Victorian period directly, nor in the various ways that Victorian texts have been reconceptualized, but is instead unpacking the various meanings of ‘the Victorian’ over the past hundred years. The result is a book…that urgently speaks to the study and profession of Victorian literature, history, and culture today.”
“(Joyce’s) main argument is that the (often pejorative) definitions assigned by the modernists of the Bloomsbury circle to ‘Victorian’ and ‘Victorianism’ have tended to persist, thereby obscuring the more progressive aspects of 19th-century thought—for example, classical liberalism.”
“Simon Joyce’s The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror is a good example of academic training put to use in a manner that both contributes to fresh scholarly understanding and at the same time engages in lively and socially useful polemic. The book is so animated because while it has a lot to say about the Victorian period, it’s really about how the period has served and continues to serve as the object of competing urgencies, political and cultural.”
Bruce Robbins, author ofFeeling Global: Internationalism in Distress
When Margaret Thatcher called in 1979 for a return to Victorian values such as hard work, self-reliance, thrift, and national pride, Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock responded that “Victorian values” also included “cruelty, misery, drudgery, squalor, and ignorance.”
The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror is an in-depth look at the ways that the twentieth century reacted to and reimagined its predecessor. It considers how the Victorian inheritance has been represented in literature, politics, film, and visual culture; the ways in which modernists and progressives have sought to differentiate themselves from an image of the Victorian; and how conservatives (and some liberals) have sought to revive elements of nineteenth-century life. Nostalgic and critical impulses combine to fix an understanding of the Victorians in the popular imagination.
Simon Joyce examines heritage culture, contemporary politics, and the “neo-Dickensian” novel to offer a more affirmative assessment of the Victorian legacy, one that lets us imagine a model of social interconnection and interdependence that has come under threat in today’s politics and culture.
Although more than one hundred years have passed since the death of Queen Victoria, the impact of her time is still fresh. The Victorians in the Rearview Mirror speaks to diverse audiences in literary and cultural studies, in addition to those interested in visual culture and contemporary politics, and situates detailed close readings of literary and cinematic texts in the context of a larger argument about the legacies of an era not as distant as we might like to think.
Simon Joyce is an associate professor of English and the director of the Literary and Cultural Studies program at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Capital Offenses: Geographies of Class and Crime in Victorian London.
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