Housing the past: Victorian houses in neo-Victorian fiction


Abstract

As argued, among others, by Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space (1958), a house which has been inhabited over a period of time becomes a composite of its physical structure and the mental space created by its residents’ thoughts, dreams and memories. This paper analyses two contemporary novels in which houses as tangible manifestations of temporally remote experience provide a link to the Victorian past. Lauren Willig’s That Summer (2014) and Kate Beaufoy’s Another Heartbeat in the House (2015) represent the same type of neo-Victorian fiction: their plots are composed of two strands, one set in the modern age and the other in the nineteenth century, and in the course of each story parallels and convergences are revealed between the two ages and the two casts of characters. The article argues that both novels are also typical “romances of the archive” – as defined by Suzanne Keen (2001) − in which the material legacy of the past triggers a personally motivated inquiry, leading contemporary characters to uncover certain bygone mysteries, and, crucially, to recognise the past’s continuing appeal and relevance.


Keywords

neo-Victorian fiction, the house in literature, romances of the archive, interaction between past and present, double plot

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Published : 2022-08-01


Kucała, B. (2022) “Housing the past: Victorian houses in neo-Victorian fiction”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (36). doi: 10.15290/CR.2022.36.1.01.

Bożena Kucała  bozena.kucala@uj.edu.pl
Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland  Poland
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9882-9305

Bożena Kucała is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of English Studies, Jagiellonian University in Kraków, where she teaches nineteenth-century and contemporary English literature. Her research interests include contemporary English fiction, especially the historical novel and neo-Victorian fiction. Main publications: Intertextual Dialogue with the Victorian Past in the Contemporary Novel (2012), co-edited books: Writer and Time: James Joyce and After (2010), Confronting the Burden of History: Literary Representations of the Past (2012), Travelling Texts: J.M. Coetzee and Other Writers (2014), Powieść brytyjska w XXI wieku [The British Novel in the 21st Century] (2018).