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Durham University

The Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies


A selection of books recently authored by CNCS Members is shown below. For further details of publications written by individual CNCS memebers, please consult the membership profile pages through the institutional links below:

Durham University | Newcastle University | Northumbira University | UK & Ireland Institutions | International Institutions

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This engaging book explores the dynamic relationship between evolutionary science and musical culture in Victorian Britain, drawing upon a wealth of popular scientific and musical literature to contextualize evolutionary theories of the Darwinian and non-Darwinian revolutions. Bennett Zon uses musical culture to question the hegemonic role ascribed to Darwin by later thinkers, and interrogates the conceptual premise of modern debates in evolutionary musicology. Structured around the Great Chain of Being, chapters are organized by discipline in successively ascending order according to their object of study, from zoology and the study of animal music to theology and the music of God. Evolution and Victorian Musical Culture takes a non-Darwinian approach to the interpretation of Victorian scientific and musical interrelationships, debunking the idea that the arts had little influence on contemporary scientific ideas and, by probing the origins of musical interdisciplinarity, the volume shows how music helped ideas about evolution to evolve.

Contaminations: Beyond Dialectics in Modern Literature, Science and Film

Michael Mack

Whereas dialectics separates two entities and traverses from one to the other (finally negating negation), contamination allows for the simultaneous interdependence of what has previously been conceived as separate or opposed. The book enquires into the problem of various oppositions between pure entities such as nature and society, body and mind, science and the arts, subjectivity and objectivity, action and contemplation, the sacred and the profane. It examines how works of literature and cinema have contaminated constructions of the pure and the immune with their purported opposite. As an advanced critical introduction to the figure of contamination, the book makes explicit what so far has remained unarticulated—what has only been implied—within postmodern and poststructuralist, and deconstructive theory.

Combining theory with literary criticism, Contaminations sheds light on how overlooked aspects of Henry James’s , H. Melville’s and H. G. Wells’s novels question notions of natural order as well as an opposition between the subjective and the objective. It offers fresh readings of classic films and literary texts, including Vertigo and Moby Dick, with the aim to ground theoretical insights in close analysis.

Read more about Michael Mack's work here.

Evolution and Victorian Culture

Edited by Bennett Zon (with Bernard Lightman)

In this collection of essays from leading scholars, the dynamic interplay between evolution and Victorian culture is explored for the first time, mapping new relationships between the arts and sciences. Rather than focusing simply on evolution and literature or art, this volume brings together essays exploring the impact of evolutionary ideas on a wide range of cultural activities including painting, sculpture, dance, music, fiction, poetry, cinema, architecture, theatre, photography, museums, exhibitions and popular culture. Broad-ranging, rather than narrowly specialized, each chapter provides a brief introduction to key scholarship, a central section exploring original insights drawn from primary source material, and a conclusion offering overarching principles and a projection towards further areas of research. Each chapter covers the work of significant individuals and groups applying evolutionary theory to their particular art, both as theorists and practitioners. This comprehensive examination of topics sheds light on larger and previously unknown Victorian cultural patterns.

Read more about Bennett Zon's work here.

An Anglican British world:The Church of England and the expansion of the settler empire, c. 1790–1860

Joseph Hardwick

This book looks at how that oft-maligned institution, the Anglican Church, coped with mass migration from Britain in the first half of the nineteenth century. The book details the great array of institutions, voluntary societies and inter-colonial networks that furnished the Church with the men and money that enabled it to sustain a common institutional structure and a common set of beliefs across a rapidly-expanding ‘British world’. An Anglican British world also sheds light on how this institutional context contributed to the formation of colonial Churches with distinctive features and identities. One of the book’s key aims is to show how the colonial Church should be of interest to more than just scholars and students of religious and Church history. The colonial Church was an institution that played a vital role in the formation of political publics and ethnic communities in a settler empire that was being remoulded by the advent of mass migration, democracy and the separation of Church and State.

Read more about Joseph Hardwick's work here.

Decadent Romanticism: 1780-1914

Edited by Kostas Boyiopoulos and Mark Sandy

For Decadent authors, Romanticism was a source of powerful imaginative revisionism, perversion, transition, and partial negation. But for all these strong Decadent reactions against the period, the cultural phenomenon of Decadence shared with Romanticism a mutual distrust of the philosophy of utilitarianism and the aesthetics of neo-Classicism. Reflecting on the interstices between Romantic and Decadent literature, Decadent Romanticism reassesses the diverse and creative reactions of Decadent authors to Romanticism between 1780 and 1914, while also remaining alert to the prescience of the Romantic imagination to envisage its own distorted, darker, perverted, other self. Creative pairings include William Blake and his Decadent critics, the recurring figure of the sphinx in the work of Thomas De Quincey and Decadent writers, and Percy Shelley with both Mathilde Blind and Swinburne. Not surprisingly, John Keats’s works are a particular focus, in essays that explore Keats’s literary and visual legacies and his resonance for writers who considered him an icon of art for art’s sake. Crucial to this critical reassessment are the shared obsessions of Romanticism and Decadence with subjectivity, isolation, addiction, fragmentation, representation, romance, and voyeurism, as well as a poetics of desire and anxieties over the purpose of aestheticism.

Read more about Mark Sandy's work here.

Writing the Prizefight: Pierce Egan's Boxiana World

David Snowdon

This book focuses on the literary contribution made by the pugilistic writing of Pierce Egan (c. 1772-1849), identifying the elements that rendered Egan’s style distinctive and examining the ways his writing invigorated the sporting narrative. In particular, the author analyses Egan’s blend of inventive imagery and linguistic exuberance within the commentaries of the Boxiana series (1812-29). Writing the Prizefight explores the metropolitan and sporting jargon used by the diverse range of characters that inhabited Egan’s ‘Pugilistic Hemisphere’ and looks at Egan’s exploitation of prizefighting’s theatricality. Another significant theme is the role of pugilistic reporting in perpetuating stereotypical notions relating to British national identity, military readiness and morality. Consideration of Egan’s metropolitan rambles is complemented by discussion of the heterogeneity, spectacle and social dynamics of the prize ring and its reportage. The book traces Egan’s impact during the nineteenth century and, importantly, evaluates his influence on the subsequent development of sporting journalism. This book won the Aberdare Book Prize (2013) of the British Society of Sports History.

Read more about David Snowdon's work here.

The Persistence of Beauty: Victorians to Moderns

Edited by Michael O’Neill, Mark Sandy and Sarah Wootton

Is beauty an enduring quality of great art and literature? Or is the perception of something as beautiful merely a subjective response? A new collection of essays, edited by Michael O’Neill, Mark Sandy and Sarah Wootton, examines the cultural, literary, philosophical and historical representation of beauty in British, Irish and American literature. By examining a range of literary works, from Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë to W H Auden and Stephen Spender, The Persistence of Beauty breathes fresh life into a long philosophical debate about aesthetics. Contributors reflect on the implications of genre for the way in which a writer deals with “beauty,” and how the idea, or “ideal,” of beauty changes across time and literary periods. A novel or poem can be beautiful even when it questions what beauty might mean or whether beauty has value. The book sustains the historical thesis that, in the wake of Romanticism, beauty is “in trouble,” and that exploring such trouble has had perplexing but richly rewarding aesthetic results.

Read more about Michael O'Neill's work here.
Read more about Mark Sandy's work here.
Read more about Sarah Wootton's work here.

George Gissing and the Woman Question

Edited by Simon J. James (with Christine Huguet)

Approaching its subject both contextually and comparatively, George Gissing and the Woman Question reads Gissing's novels, short stories and personal writings as a crux in European fiction's formulations of gender and sexuality. The collection places Gissing alongside nineteenth- and twentieth-century authors as diverse as Paul Bourget, Ella Hepworth Dixon, May Sinclair and Theodore Dreiser, theorizing the ways in which late-Victorian sexual difference is challenged, explored and performed in Gissing's work. In addition to analyzing the major novels, essays make a case for Gissing as a significant short story writer and address Gissing's own life and afterlife in ways that avoid biographical mimetics. The contributors also place Gissing's work in relation to discourses of subjectivity and intersubjectivity, identity, public space, class and labour, especially literary production. Increasingly viewed as a key chronicler of the late Victorian period's various redefinitions of sexual difference, Gissing is here recognized as a sincere, uncompromising chronicler of social change.

Read more about Simon James' work here.

The Poems of Shelley: Volume Four

Edited by Michael Rossington (with Jack Donovan and Kelvin Everest)

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was one of the major Romantic poets, and wrote what is critically recognised as some of the finest lyric poetry in the English language. This is the fourth volume of the five-volume The Poems of Shelley, which presents all of Shelley’s poems in chronological order and with full annotation. Amongst the poems included in this volume are Epipsychidion and Adonais. Date and circumstances of composition are provided for each poem and all manuscript and printed sources relevant to establishing an authentic and accurate text are freshly examined and assessed. Headnotes and footnotes furnish the personal, literary, historical and scientific information necessary to an informed reading of Shelley’s varied and allusive verse.

`The whole is a model of objective and scrupulous scholarship…This first reliably complete edition promises to be the standard scholarly text for many years to come.' The Times Literary Supplement

Read more about Michael Rossington's work here

Romanticism, Memory, and Mourning

Mark Sandy

The subject of Romanticism, Memory, and Mourning could not be timelier with Žižek’s recent proclamation that we are ‘living in the end times’ and in an era which is preoccupied with the process and consequences of ageing. We mourn both for our pasts and futures as we now recognise that history is a continuation and record of loss. Mark Sandy explores the treatment of grief, loss, and death across a variety of Romantic poetic forms, including the ballad, sonnet, epic, elegy, fragment, romance, and ode in the works of poets as diverse as Smith, Hemans, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Clare. Romantic meditations on grief, however varied in form and content, are self-consciously aware of the complexity and strength of feelings surrounding the consolation or disconsolation that their structures of poetic memory afford those who survive the imaginary and actual dead. Romantic mourning, Sandy shows, finds expression in disparate poetic forms, and how it manifests itself both as the spirit of its age, rooted in precise historical conditions, and as a proleptic power, of lasting transhistorical significance. Romantic meditations on grief and loss speak to our contemporary anxieties about the inevitable, but unthinkable, event of death itself.

Read more about Mark Sandy's work here.

The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture

Edited by Anne Leonard (with Tim Shephard)

As a coherent field of research, the field of music and visual culture has seen rapid growth in recent years. The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture serves as the first comprehensive reference on the intersection between these two areas of study, an ideal introduction for those coming to the field for the first time as well as a useful source of information for seasoned researchers. This collection of over forty entries, from musicologists and art historians from the US and UK, delineate the key concepts in the field in five parts: 1. Starting Points 2. Methodologies 3. Reciprocation – the musical in visual culture and the visual in musical culture 4. Convergence –in metaphor, in conception, and in practice 5.Hybrid Arts

This reference work speaks to the important questions concerning this burgeoning field of research –what are the established approaches to studying musical and visual cultures side by side? What have been the major points of contact between these two areas and what kind of questions can this interdisciplinary research address moving forward? The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture is an indispensable guide for anyone interested in the field of music and visual culture.

Read more about Anne Leonard's work here.

Tragic Coleridge

Chris Murray

To Samuel Taylor Coleridge, tragedy was not solely a literary mode, but a philosophy to interpret the history that unfolded around him. Tragic Coleridge explores the tragic vision of existence that Coleridge derived from Classical drama, Shakespeare, Milton and contemporary German thought. Coleridge viewed the hardships of the Romantic period, like the catastrophes of Greek tragedy, as stages in a process of humanity’s overall purification. Offering new readings of canonical poems, as well as neglected plays and critical works, Chris Murray elaborates Coleridge’s tragic vision in relation to a range of thinkers, from Plato and Aristotle to George Steiner and Raymond Williams. He draws comparisons with the works of Blake, the Shelleys, and Keats to explore the factors that shaped Coleridge’s conception of tragedy, including the origins of sacrifice, developments in Classical scholarship, theories of inspiration and the author’s quest for civic status. With cycles of catastrophe and catharsis everywhere in his works, Coleridge depicted the world as a site of tragic purgation, and wrote himself into it as an embattled sage qualified to mediate the vicissitudes of his age.

Read more about Chris Murray's work here.

Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis

Michael Mack

Highlighting literature and philosophy's potential impact on economics, health care, bioethics, public policy and theology, Philosophy and Literature in Times of Crisis analyses the heuristic value of fiction. It alerts us to how we risk succumbing to the deceptions of fiction in our everyday lives, because fictional representations constantly feign to be of the real and claim a reality of their own. Philosophy and literature disclose how the substantive sphere of social, economic and medical practice is sometimes driven and shaped by the affect-ridden and subjective. Analysing a wide range of literature—from Augustine, Shakespeare, Spinoza and Deleuze to Kafka, Sylvia Plath, Philip Roth, W. G. Sebald and Jonathan Littell—Michael Mack rethinks ethical attitudes towards the long or eternal life. In so doing he shows how philosophy and literature turn representation against itself to expose the hollowness of theologically grand concepts that govern our secular approach towards ethics, economics and medicine. Philosophy and literature help us resist our current infatuation with numbers and the numerical and contribute towards a future politics that is at once singular and diverse.

Read more about Michael Mack's work here.

Languages of Politics in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Edited by David Craig (with James Thompson)

The way citizens imagine their polities is a central part of the history of any nation. Their hopes and fears not only guide their own political behaviour, but also shape the responses of politicians. Languages of Politics provides a comprehensible and accessible portrait of public life and political language across the whole of nineteenth-century Britain. It asks: What was the political language actually used by contemporaries? How far were such languages stable and coherent across the period? In what ways did they offer both guides for political action and templates for political judgment? Did they demonstrate consensus or reveal contention? What kinds of shifts and transformations can be identified? This volume brings together leading historians to consider central topics such as governance, statesmanship, patriotism, political economy, religion, democracy, women's suffrage, Ireland and India. The map of the century it offers will be invaluable to all students of political culture.

 Read more about David Craig's work here.

Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic, and Musical Patriot

Edited by Paul Watt (with Anne-Marie Forbes)

This is the first scholarly work to document the musical life of Joseph Holbrooke, one of Britain’s most prolific and controversial composers during the first half of the twentieth century. Holbrooke was outspoken on many issues, including the maligned fortunes of British composers, which he believed were brought about by apathy and indifference on the part of critics and the public. Despite doubts in various quarters over Holbrooke’s ability to forge a unique compositional idiom, many of his works were performed to critical acclaim in Britain, Europe, and the United States. Today, Holbrooke’s music is increasingly enjoyed and recorded.

Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic, and Musical Patriot opens with a biographical overview of Holbrooke that concentrates on his relationship with Granville Bantock and Wales and the role that Lord Howard de Walden played in Holbrooke’s work and development. Contributors offer studies of a selection of repertory by Holbrooke, including his chamber music, the operas Pierrot and Pierretteand The Enchanted Garden, and his tone poem “The Raven.” The final chapter describes Holbrooke’s patriotism by examining his book Contemporary British Composers, which was published in 1925. Included is an appendix that provides the first comprehensive and corrected list of Holbrooke’s compositions.

Read more about Paul Watt's work here.

Manet, Wagner, and the Musical Culture of Their Time

Therese Dolan

How did the tumult caused by German composer Richard Wagner result in the first modernist painting? In the first full-length book dedicated to the study of Edouard Manet and music, art historian Therese Dolan demonstrates that the 1862 painting Music in the Tuileries represents the progressive musical culture of his time, heretofore read by scholars predominantly through the words of Charles Baudelaire. Dolan sees in this painting's radical style the conceptual shift to modernism in both painting and music, a transition that, she convincingly argues, received a strong impetus from Manet's Music in the Tuileries and Wagner's controversial Tannhäuser, which premiered the previous year. Supplemental to analysis of the painting, Dolan incorporates discussion of texts by Theophile Gautier, Champfleury, and Baudelaire who are represented in the painting.

Manet, Wagner, and the Musical Culture of Their Time incorporates studies of the major artistic, literary, and musical figures of nineteenth-century France. It represents an important contribution to an understanding of French culture in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, a period of intense literary, artistic, and musical activity that formed the crucible for modernism.

Read more about Therese Dolan's work here.

The Republican Line: Caricature and French Republican Identity, 1830-52

Laura O'Brien

The years between 1830 and 1852 were turbulent ones in French politics – but were also a golden age for French political caricature. Caricature was wielded as a political weapon, so much so that in 1835 the French politician Adolphe Thiers claimed that ‘nothing was more dangerous’ than graphic satire. The Republican Line is the first full study of French political caricature during the critical years of the July Monarchy (1830–48) and the Second Republic (1848–52). Focusing on the crucial question of republicanism, it shows how caricature was used – by both republicans and anti-republicans – to discuss, define and articulate notions of republican identity during this highly significant period in modern French and European history.

Read more about Laura O'Brien's work here.

Philosopical Polemics, School Reform, and Nation-Building in Uruguay, 1868 - 1915

Jens R Hentschke

'This monograph revisits Uruguay’s emergence as Latin America’s first welfare state democracy, associated with President José Batlle y Ordóñez (1903-7, 1911-15) and his Krausist leanings. Central to Uruguay’s belated polity formation and nation-Building was its school reform, destined to erase frontier backwardness. It started with the foundation of the Society of the Friends of Popular Education in 1868, culminated in José Pedro and Jacobo Varela’s transformation of primary and normal schooling in the 1870s and 1880s, and was driven by US liberal pedagogy and Spencerian positivism. Batllistas distanced themselves from the Varelas since they had lent their services to military dictators. Yet, as Hentschke argues, continuity inchange prevailed over the rupture of 1903, with positivism and neo-Idealism interacting in the continuation of the education reform. By placing Uruguay into the broader context of what scholars have called the “Corridor of Ideas” from Santiago deChile through Buenos Aires and Montevideo to Porto Alegre, Hentschke shows how the country acted as a crossroads of intellectuals and a laboratory for the contestation, assimilation, and merger of global and autochthonous political and pedagogical

Victorian Epic Burlesques

Rachel Bryant-Davies

This anthology presents annotated scripts of four major burlesques by key playwrights: Melodrama Mad! or, the Siege of Troy by Thomas John Dibdin (1819); Telemachus; or, the Island of Calypso by J.R. Planché (1834); The Iliad; or, the Siege of Troy by Robert Brough (1858) and Ulysses; or the Ironclad Warriors and the Little Tug of War by F.C. Burnand (1865).

Beloved legend, archaeological riddle and educational staple: Homer's epic tales of the Trojan War and its aftermath were vividly reimagined in nineteenth-century Britain. Classical burlesques-exceptionally successful theatrical entertainments-continually mined the Iliad and Odyssey to lucrative comic effect. Burlesques combined song, dance and slapstick comedy with an eclectic kaleidoscope of topical allusions. From namedropping boxing legends to recasting Shakespearean combats, epic adaptations overflow with satirical commentary on politics, cultural highlights and everyday current affairs.

In uncovering Homer's irreverently playful afterlife, this selection showcases burlesque's development and wide appeal. The critical introduction analyses how these plays contested the accessibility of classical antiquity and dramatic performance. Textual and literary annotations, with contemporary illustrations, illuminate the juxtaposed sources to establish these repackaged epics as indispensable tools for unlocking nineteenth-century social, cultural and political history.

Troy, Carthage and the Victorians

Rachel Bryant-Davies

Playful, popular visions of Troy and Carthage, backdrops to the Iliad and Aeneid's epic narratives, shine the spotlight on antiquity's starring role in nineteenth-century culture. This is the story of how these ruined cities inspired bold reconstructions of the Trojan War and its aftermath, how archaeological discoveries in the Troad and North Africa sparked dramatic debates, and how their ruins were exploited to conceptualise problematic relationships between past, present and future. Rachel Bryant Davies breaks new ground in the afterlife of classical antiquity by revealing more complex and less constrained interaction with classical knowledge across a broader social spectrum than yet understood, drawing upon methodological developments from disciplines such as history of science and theatre history in order to do so. She also develops a thorough critical framework for understanding classical burlesque and engages in in-depth analysis of a toy-theatre production.