The Victorian era is famous for the collecting, hording, and displaying of things; for the mass production and consumption of things; for the invention, distribution and sale of things; for those who had things, and those who did not. For many people, the Victorian period is intrinsically associated with paraphernalia.
This collection of essays explores the Victorians through their materiality, and asks how objects were part of being Victorian; which objects defined them, represented them, were uniquely theirs; and how reading the Victorians, through their possessions, can deepen our understanding of Victorian culture. Miscellaneous and often auxiliary, paraphernalia becomes the ‘disjecta’ of everyday life, deemed neither valuable enough for museums nor symbolic enough for purely literary study. This interdisciplinary collection looks at the historical, cultural and literary debris that makes up the background of Victorian life: Valentine’s cards, fish tanks, sugar plums, china ornaments, hair ribbons, dresses and more. Contributors also, however, consider how we use Victorian objects to construct the Victorian today; museum spaces, the relation of Victorian text to object, and our reading – or gazing at – Victorian advertisements out of context on searchable online databases.
Responding to thing theory and modern scholarship on Victorian material culture, this book addresses five key concerns of Victorian materiality: collecting; defining class in the home; objects becoming things; objects to texts; objects in circulation through print culture.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Helen Kingstone and Kate Lister, ‘It’s a Victorian Thing’ 1
- ‘A magic cave’: collecting objects
- Ornaments: defining prosperity at home 47
- Decentring meaning: objects becoming things 86
- Object or text? reading the body 111
- Objects in circulation: print culture 131
Rohan McWilliam, ‘The Bazaars of London’s West End in the Nineteenth Century’ 10
Anne Anderson, ‘The Bric-à-Bracquer’s Étagère or Whatnot: Staging ‘artistic’ taste in the Aesthetic "House Beautiful"’ 23
Thad Logan, "Rossetti's Things: the Artist and his Accessories" 36
Silvia Granata, ‘The Dark Side of the Tank: the Marine Aquarium in the Victorian Home’ 48
Ralph Mills, ‘A Chimney-Piece in Plumtree-Court, Holborn: plaster of Paris "images" and nineteenth-century working class material culture’ 59
Julia Courtney, ‘Secret Lives of Dead Animals: Exploring Victorian Taxidermy’ 74
Valerie Sanders, ‘Objects of Anxiety in Nineteenth-Century Children’s Literature: Edith Nesbit and Frances Hodgson Burnett’ 87
Francois Ropert, ‘Within ‘the Coil of Things’: The Figurative Use of Devotional Objects in the Poetical Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne and Oscar Wilde’ 99
Heather Hind, ‘"Golden Lies"? Reading Locks of Hair in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret and Tennyson’s "The Ringlet"’ 112
Sophie Ratcliffe, ‘The Art of Curling Up: Charles Dickens and the Feeling of Curl Papers’ 120
Odile Boucher-Rivalain, ‘Woman’s Dress as a Polemical Object/Subject in the Mid-Victorian Period’ 132
Alice Crossley, ‘Paper Love: Valentines in Victorian Culture’ 143
Peter Yeandle, ‘Exotic Bodies and Mundane Medicines: advertising and empire in the late-Victorian and Edwardian press’
"Paraphernalia! Victorian Objects indicates that the study of nine-teenth-century material culture is by no means exhausted. The essays demonstrate that we need to continue reading this period through its objects in order to under-stand better the relationships between the fabric of the past and its representation."
- Deborah Wynne, University of Chester, Literature & History