Contamination of the Past : The Blend of Fact and Fiction in Neo-Victorian Literature



Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description When portraying the past, one of the difficulties any work ultimately encounters is the impossibility of achieving complete authenticity and accuracy. However, instead of becoming obsessed with unattainable goals of faithfulness, many neo-Victorian novels shift attention to their other goals, such as the overlooked issues and ostracised characters that deserve to be heard and seen. What might be thus viewed as contamination of reality becomes the strength of literary works that refuse to be tied down by the limited textual evidence and reliable sources. Two works in which the lives of real nineteenth-century individuals are explored and which are discussed in this presentation are The Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster and The Convictions of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes. These books have in common their exploration of marginal characters whose stories are retold from their point of view. Thus, because of these textual reanimations, the lives of an undervalued Victorian maid and an Irish murderer can be reexamined and scrutinised through the twenty-first-century lens. The unattainable accuracy is left behind, and instead, the intricacies of the Victorian margins are explored. This presentation focuses on the challenging task of resurrecting real people two centuries later. Its focus is on the relationship between fact and fiction and the possible benefits of their merging. The argument is that inaccuracies and changes in both of these works strengthen the final product, and any contemporary contamination present in the novels is to be welcomed instead of being critiqued and considered a devaluing factor.
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