by Stephen Arata
A well crafted overview of British late imperial culture, and the basic tensions that manifested in their literature. As depicted by Arata it was a society seeking to generate reassurances, one torn by its own ambiguities and contradictions in official ideals. On a direct level they faced an increasingly gloomy foreign context as well as major domestic transformations with technology, class, politics and gender. Dealing with the less stable potential of modernity, an array of authors turned to empire, seeking to reassert it as a natural, essentialized absolute, but in the process reflecting their continued ambivalence and set of instabilities. An intense and well written account, it’s particularly good at parsing less commonly considered elements of Victorian literature, such as the fear of counter-invasion as developed in Stoker’s Dracula and the larger dichotomy centered around the Gothic form.
Worse than: Victorian Writing About Risk by Elaine Freedgood
Better than: Why Victorian Literature Still Matters by Philip Davis