Victorian Fiction and the Cult of the Horse  book cover
1st Edition

Victorian Fiction and the Cult of the Horse

ISBN 9781138263093
Published October 19, 2016 by Routledge
192 Pages

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Book Description

The horse was essential to the workings of Victorian society, and its representations, which are vast, ranging, and often contradictory, comprise a vibrant cult of the horse. Examining the representational, emblematic, and rhetorical uses of horses in a diversity of nineteenth-century texts, Gina M. Dorré shows how discourses about horses reveal and negotiate anxieties related to industrialism and technology, constructions of gender and sexuality, ruptures in the social fabric caused by class conflict and mobility, and changes occasioned by national "progress" and imperial expansion. She argues that as a cultural object, the horse functions as a repository of desire and despair in a society rocked by astonishing social, economic, and technological shifts. While representations of horses abound in Victorian fiction, Gina M. Dorré's study focuses on those novels by Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Braddon, Anna Sewell, and George Moore that engage with the most impassioned controversies concerning horses and horse-care, such as the introduction of the steam engine, popular new methods of horse-taming, debates over the tight-reining of horses, and the moral furor surrounding gambling at the race track. Her book establishes the centrality of the horse as a Victorian cultural icon and explores how through it, dominant ideologies of gender and class are created, promoted, and disrupted.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: All the queen's horses: Victorian culture and 'the definition of a horse; Handling the 'iron horse': Dickens, travel, and the derailing of Victorian masculinity; Horsebreaking and homemaking: horsey heroines and destabilized domesticity in the sensation fiction of Mary E. Braddon; Horses and corsets: Black Beauty, dress reform, and the fashioning of the Victorian woman; Reading and riding: late-century aesthetics and the cultural economy of the turf in George Moore's Esther Waters; Epilogue: Urban ironies and the modern mind: horses after Victoria; Bibliography; Index.

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Gina M. Dorré is a Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Nevada, Reno, where whe teaches writing and literature.


’... impressive work... Dorré combines a wealth of cultural-historical material with innovative readings of nineteenth-century texts... make[s] significant contributions to our understanding of the place of the animal in Victorian literature and culture.’ Journal of Victorian Culture ’... this is a thought-provoking and worthwhile book, alerting us especially to the vitality and complexity of Victorian fiction, and its exuberant use of metaphor as a descriptive, structural and socially-critical device. What Dorré analyzes as the 'displacement' of gender and class anxieties onto the body of the horse, produces a rich and complex symbolic language that she has in part decoded for us.’ Anthrozoös