Traumatic Tales: British Nationhood and National Trauma in Nineteenth-Century Literature explores intersections of nationalism and trauma in Romantic and Victorian literature from the emergence of British nationalism through the height of the British Empire. From the national tales of the early nineteenth century to the socially incisive realist novels that emerged later in the century, nationalism is inescapable in this literature, as much current scholarship acknowledges. Nineteenth-century national trauma, however, has only recently begun to be explored.
Taking as its starting point the unsettling effects of nationalism, the essays in this collection expose the violence underlying empire-building, particularly in regard to subject identity. National violence—imperialism, colonialism and warfare—necessarily grounds nation-formation in deep-lying trauma. As the essays demonstrate, such fraught nexus are made visible in national tales as well as in political policy, exposed by means of theoretical and historical analyses to reveal psychological, political, social and individual trauma. This exploration of violence in the construction of national ideology in nineteenth-century Britain rethinks our understanding of cultural memory, national identity, imperialism, and colonialism, recent thrusts of Romantic and Victorian study in nineteenth-century literature.