Roberta Gefter Wondrich

Neo-Victorian Archive Novels: Heuristic Obsessions and the Reimagined Past

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Neo-Victorian Narrative; Manuscripts; Retrieval; Postmodernism.

Starting from a preliminary critical survey of the archival discourse as intrinsic to the novel's development, the article argues that Neo-Victorian fiction is permeated by an archival imagination as constitutive of its engagement with the past and cultural memory, and investigates the most significant aspects of this archival turn. In "romances of the archive" (S.Keen) like "Flaubert's Parrot" (1984) "Chatterton" (1987) "Possession" (1990), "Ever After" (1992), "The Dark Clue" (2001), and "The Chemistry of Tears" (2013) the very idea of the archive in its broader conception entails an sense of the historical past as not only discoverable and tangibly preserved through archival research, but as affecting the present. While conceiving the archive as primarily a repository of textual objects, and hence mainly focussing on the trope of the manuscript and other archival finds, the article points to the status of the modernist and postmodernist text as archive, and to the heuristic obsession of neo-Victorian fiction, which invites both pleasure reading and intellectual commitment through the fictional device of the imagined access to the "archive" of the "real" Victorian past.

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