Novel in Victorian Age

Numero di pagine:4
Formato di file:.doc (Microsoft Word)
Download   Anteprima (Dimensione: 5.08 Kb)
trucheck.it_novel-in-victorian-age.doc     29.5 Kb
readme.txt     59 Bytes


The Victorian Age

The adjective Victorian is conveniently used to indicate the literature of a period which extends from the decline of Romanticism to the beginning of the cultural renaissance known as “Modernism”. However, these limits are rather vague because romantic features can be traced in the works of many Victorian writers, such as Brontë sisters, Alfred Tennyson, the Pre-Raphaelites and even Thomas Hardy, and at the same time the modernist concern with experimentalism can be perceived in novels like Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights as well as in poems like the ones by Robert Browning and Gerard Manley Hopkins.
The term Victorian comes from Queen Victoria, who ascended the throne in 1837, at the age of eighteen. So, we can identify the queen with the period in which she ruled. The nation itself not only identified with her, but it also elevated her into a monumental symbol of its own perceived greatness, exalted by her very name, Victoria, instantly recognizable by her subjects as a shout of triumph. So the adjective Victorian was immediately associated with confidence, direction, progress and identity and, as such, it reassured the society of the age of its stability, security and power. Actually this is the image that especially the middle classes tended to impose to the world and on posterity, but in reality the period of Victoria’s reign was characterized by one hand reflects the ferments of the age, the dissatisfaction with old traditions and the dismay at industrialization and scientific progress, while on the other hand reflects to reassure the readers by proposing solutions to dissipate the nation’s anxieties concerning the present time.
By 1875 the term “Victorian” had been coined by the queen’s subjects because they identified themselves with their sovereign, and it was extended to literature the following year. It is convenient because it unifies different, sometimes contrasting trends, which are the result of the conflicting attitudes of the society of the age, which cannot be avoided in such a long period of time.

The Novel in the Victorian Age

The Victorian Age is identified with the novel. The reason not only lies in the fact that the age produced a consistent number of major writers of this form, but especially in the strength, the depth and the great range and variety of interest which can be found among novelist of less established reputation. Victorian fiction dealt with every topic, entered into every dispute, expressed every ideal of a period thought of as one of incredibly rapid change. The reason for the enormous widespreading of this literary form are various, but perhaps the most significant is the triumph of the middle class. In fact the rise of the novel in the 18th century was due to the necessity for the middle classes to have a genre of their own, which could meet their exigencies. The increase of their economic power in Victorian society also implied the development and indisputable success of their favorite literary form. Among the middle classes literacy became widespreade with the improvement of their social status and, in addition to that, they tended to teach their servants and their inferiors to read and write. In this way the reading public increased and the most suitable literary form was the one that at the time was the easiest to approach and the most entertaining. On the other hand it is not difficult to get novels because, thanks to the development of the means of transport and especially the railway boom, they reached every single place in the country and cost relatively little. As a matter of fact, owning to a series of factors, the cost of novels decreased significantly. At the beginning of the 19th century most of the novels were published in three or four volumes and the standard cost of each volume was half a guinea, quite a high price for most middle class readers and definitely beyond the means of the working-class. However, everybody could have the chance of reading thanks to a subscription of one guinea a year, which allowed people to borrow one volume at a time from one of the main circulating libraries, which had started in 1740, but became very popular in the 19th century. Alternatives to publication in three-volume form were the so-called instalments: novels published in this way were issued as slim volumes and appeared at the beginning of each month, usually for nineteen numbers. They were enormously popular and the gradually gave way to part publication in literary magazines. Publication in serial form had a great importance because it encouraged the spread of the novel, but, on the other hand, it influenced its creation because it was subject to precise and fixed rules. Writers had to keep the interest of the readers at a very high level in order to make them continue to buy their work for a long period, so they ended each issue with some suspense as an incentive to people to purchase the next instalment. They also had to ensure the memorability of characters, whose last appearance could have occurred several months earlier. As a consequence the writers who habitually used the monthly serial, such as Dickens or Thackeray, often produced a melodramatic form of plot and tended to exaggerate characterization. However, they enjoyed some advantages such as the possibility of an immediate feedback and, as a consequence, they could adjust their works according to the public’s preferences. If this sometimes implied a lack of balance in structure and plot, it was favorable to the selling of novels.
The major consumers of fiction were women and novel of this period belonged in certain crucial respects to them. They were not only voracious reader, but, to a degree never seen previously, producers as well. Women equaled men not only as great writers but also as producers of every sort of narrative, from minor masterpieces to worthless works. , ,