The Bildungsroman genre poses a productive challenge for the study of Victorian internationalisms. On the one hand, scholars of German literature often contend that the genre is inextricably tied to German concepts of culture and nationhood; on the other hand, half a century of scholarly practice has linked the term “Bildungsroman” to novels of personal education across Europe and beyond. Seeking to interrogate, rather than simply assume, the internationalism of the Bildungsroman genre, I focus on the Franco-British literary exchanges inscribed in a major Victorian Bildungsroman, William Makepeace Thackeray’s Pendennis. Drawing on a variety of theoretical and historical models, including Margaret Cohen and Carolyn Dever’s concept of the “Channel zone,” I suggest that Pendennis forms a point of intersection between the British and French national traditions of the Bildungsroman, thus allowing us to see how a genre with a German name was modified in its passage between France and Britain. Although Thackeray is often thought of as an apolitical writer—a satirist concerned only with the manners and morals of the middle and upper classes—I argue that Pendennis was crucially shaped by his engagement with the French Revolution of 1848. In order to face and exorcise the threat of revolution, I further suggest, Thackeray turned to the French Bildungsroman tradition; my hypothesis is that Thackeray reworked Balzac’s Lost Illusions, transforming Balzac’s narrative of revolutionary dislocation into a self-consciously British narrative of peaceful change. By working both with and against French literary models, Thackeray reveals the formation of British identity as a complex process of cross-Channel negotiation, rather than a simple negation of the French “other.”
This essay situates Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray in relation to a common pattern in Victorian novels—the tendency to compare highly regulated English characters with unstable, and immoral, French ones. I argue that the well-known chapter on the “yellow book,” which incorporates from J.-K. Huysmans’s A Rebours a pattern of cosmopolitan consumption, productively disrupts mechanized patterns of consumption that Wilde explicitly associates with the English character and English novel-reading. At the same time, Dorian Gray also remains critical of the ways in which this French structure of characterization is a distinctly cultural form and therefore potentially limits individual autonomy.
This essay explores the nineteenth-century development of pilgrimage to authors’ houses and locales in light of British and American regionalism and literary reception. It focuses on the trope of “author country” in the celebrated careers and commemoration of Longfellow and the Brontës, and examines American “homes and haunts” books that represent ritual visits to these different authors. Various representations and sites, including portraits, statues, waterfalls, and houses, mark the indigenous qualities of national literature and international attractions.
“From Egypt to Ireland: Lady Augusta Gregory and Cross-Cultural Nationalisms in Victorian Ireland” argues that Gregory promoted women’s political activism by adapting and exploiting the ways that nineteenth-century Irish nationalists drew upon African and Asian cultures to forge new understandings of Irishness. Gregory turned to representations of an Egyptian nationalist and his family to advocate links between domestic space and political action, a proposition that underscored Gregory’s elite class position, but also revealed the potential of the essay form to revise assumptions about gender that had calcified in other prevalent genres of Victorian Ireland.
By considering the multiple frames in and around My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell and “The Yellow Mask” by Wilkie Collins, this paper examines the tradition of British short stories that were structurally, but not thematically, modeled on the folktales known in England as the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. Use of the Nights makes Victorian short fiction coherent by providing an alternative to the linear structure of the novel. This common structure is notable for the following characteristics: a deferral of knowledge and endings, repeated thematic elements across frames and stories, and embedded metafictional narratives that gesture towards oral traditions.
This article details the history of “The Japanese Village” exhibition in late-Victorian Knightsbridge. This exhibition, which opened two months before the premier of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado in March 1885, provides an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the variety of ways Japan was represented to and by Victorian audiences. In addition to describing the event, the essay studies newspaper accounts of the exhibition's destruction by fire and subsequent rebuilding, a narrative that promotes a distinction between the picturesque ephemerality of a traditional village and the metropolitan settings in which it was staged and contained.
This essay considers an 1845 English translation by “A Friend to Ireland” of a French essay on Irish politics by the Italian nationalist Count Cavour, Considerations on the Present State and Future Prospects of Ireland. Irish aspirations to national sovereignty are, in Considerations, insistently distinguished from, and represented as insignificant in relation to, a universal history in which the British Empire leads the globe towards modernity and liberalism on terms that register the ways in which universal history and geopolitics sanction opposing views of global relations and the foundations of sovereignty.
The Bulgarians are rendered helpless in the rhetoric of the Bulgarian Agitation, a movement in Britain that produced numerous texts in response to the Ottoman massacre of thousands of Bulgarians after their uprising in April 1876. The compassion shown for the Bulgarian victims in the rhetoric of the Agitation is sincere only in moral and humane terms; open and direct political solidarity with the Bulgarians’ strident appeals for independence is missing from it. Even the morally and culturally charged pro-Agitation arguments launched by Gladstone and his followers conformed to British national interests, especially as contrasted to Bulgarian viewpoints.
This paper argues that decadent writers were highly self-conscious about their relationship to their readers, and that they regarded this relationship as a form of anti-nationalist political critique. Drawing upon Michael Warner’s notion of a “counterpublic,” the paper demonstrates the way two writers from the period—Charles Baudelaire and Aubrey Beardsely—depict and encourage the formation of cosmopolitan communities of taste in and through their accounts of the Tannhäuser legend.
The articles included in “Victorian Internationalisms” stress how attention to geopolitical contexts beyond those associated with imperialism can enrich our understanding of the Victorian engagement with the wider world. At the same time, they largely resist the temptation to recast Victorian cultural production within the often valorized rhetoric of transnationalism and cosmopolitanism. They reveal instead, for instance, the subtle ways in which national self-interest could overlap with humanitarian concerns or how British authors such as Oscar Wilde both welcomed and resisted the influence of French literature and culture. “Victorian Internationalisms” likewise draws renewed attention to the category of the “literary” itself as a discursive space perhaps uniquely suited to dramatizing the complexities of geopolitical involvement.