Paraphernalia! Victorian Objects: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Paraphernalia! Victorian Objects

1st Edition

Edited by Helen Kingstone, Kate Lister


268 pages

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Hardback: 9780815387817
pub: 2018-01-31
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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.


"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

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: Helen Kingstone and Kate Lister, ‘It’s a Victorian Thing’ 1

  1. ‘A magic cave’: collecting objects
  2. 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

  3. Ornaments: defining prosperity at home 47
  4. 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

  5. Decentring meaning: objects becoming things 86
  6. 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

  7. Object or text? reading the body 111
  8. 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

  9. Objects in circulation: print culture 131

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’

About the Editors

Helen Kingstone is Lecturer in Victorian Studies at the University of Glasgow. Her research addresses the relationship between memory and history in the nineteenth century, focusing on how writers in different genres and forms approached contemporary history. Her monograph Victorian Narratives of the Recent Past: Memory, History, Fiction was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017. Other publications include articles on fin-de-siècle utopian fiction in English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920 and in Utopias and Dystopias in the Fiction of H. G. Wells and William Morris, ed. Emelyne Godfrey (Palgrave, 2016), and others on literature and scientific ideas of progress in Nineteenth-Century Contexts and in Historicising Humans ed. Efram Sera-Shriar (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018).

Kate Lister is a graduate of Leeds and Leeds Trinity Universities, and is currently Postdoctoral Research Associate at Leeds Trinity University. She is on the board of the International Sex Work Research Hub, the curator for the online research and archive project ‘Whores of Yore’. Kate has published articles on Victorian sexuality with Routledge, the Oxford Interdisciplinary Press, and Cambridge Scholars. She was the historical consultant for the Rosa Funded ‘Our Voices’ project on sex work in the city of Leeds, and has made numerous radio and television appearances about her research. Kate’s first monograph on nineteenth-century medievalism is forthcoming with the University of Wales Press.

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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