Literary Bric-à-Brac and the Victorians: From Commodities to Oddities, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Literary Bric-à-Brac and the Victorians

From Commodities to Oddities, 1st Edition

By Jen Harrison

Edited by Jonathon Shears


226 pages

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Paperback: 9781138252950
pub: 2016-10-11
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What are we to make of the Victorians’ fascination with collecting? What effect did their encounters with the curious, exotic and downright odd have on Victorian writers and their works? The essays in this collection take up these questions by examining the phenomenon of bric-à-brac in Victorian literature. The contributors to Literary Bric-à-Brac and the Victorians: From Commodities to Oddities explore sites of unusual concurrence (including museums, the home, art galleries, private collections) and the way in which bric-à-brac brought the alien into everyday settings, the past into the present and the wild into the domestic. Focusing on the representation of material culture in Victorian literature, the essays in this volume seek out miscellaneous and incongruous objects that take readers beyond the commonplace paradigms associated with commodity culture. Individual chapters analyse the work of writers as different as Edward Lear and John Henry Newman, Robert Browning and George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll. In so doing they shed light on a dizzying array of topics and objects that include class and capitalism, the occult and the sacraments, Darwinism and dandyism, umbrellas, textiles, the Philosopher’s Stone and even the household nail.


'The essays in this collection negotiate the blocks and diversions that things create in our reading of literary texts, and come up with a variety of engaging results, sometimes suggesting new ways into nineteenth-century material culture, sometimes teasing at the practice of reading itself.' Review of English Studies

Table of Contents

Contents: Literary bric-à-brac: introducing things, Jonathon Shears and Jen Harrison; Bric-à-brac or architectonicè? Fragment and form in Victorian literature, Nicholas Shrimpton; Bricabracomania! Collecting, corporeality and the problem of things in Victorian literature, Victoria Mills; ’Beautiful things’: nonsense and the museum, Anna Barton and Catherine Bates; Browning’s curiosities: The Ring and the Book and the ’democracy of things’, Jennifer McDonell; The bric-à-brac wars: Robert Browning and Blessed John Henry Newman, Bernard Beatty; Inhospitable objects in M.R. James, Luke Thurston; On the nail: functional objects in Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, David Trotter; Shopping to survive: consumerism and evolution in M.E. Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret, Sara Clayson; Charlotte Brontë’s frocks and Shirley’s queer textiles, Deborah Wynne; The philosopher’s stone and the key to all mythologies: Mary Anne South, George Eliot and the object of knowledge, Jayne Elisabeth Archer; The ideas in Thing Town: Villette, art and moveable objects, Jonathon Shears and Jen Harrison; Works cited; Index.

About the Author/Editor

Jonathon Shears is Lecturer in English at Keele University and Jen Harrison holds a PhD in Victorian and children's literature, and is currently a teacher of secondary school English.

About the Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series

The Nineteenth Century Series aims to develop and promote new approaches and fresh directions in scholarship and criticism on nineteenth-century literature and culture. The series encourages work which erodes the traditional boundary between Romantic and Victorian studies and welcomes interdisciplinary approaches to the literary, religious, scientific and visual cultures of the period. While British literature and culture are the core subject matter of monographs and collections in the series,  the editors encourage proposals which explore the wider, international contexts of nineteenth-century literature – transatlantic, European and global.  Print culture, including studies in the newspaper and periodical press, book history, life writing and gender studies are particular strengths of this established series as are high quality single author studies.  The series also embraces research in the field of digital humanities. The editors invite proposals from both younger and established scholars in all areas of nineteenth-century literary studies. 

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LITERARY CRITICISM / Comparative Literature