Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness

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9780195121995: Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness
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Teeming with creatures, both real and imagined, this encyclopedic study in cultural history illuminates the hidden web of connections between the Victorian fascination with fairies and their lore and the dominant preoccupations of Victorian culture at large. Carole Silver here draws on sources ranging from the anthropological, folkloric, and occult to the legal, historical, and medical. She is the first to anatomize a world peopled by strange beings who have infiltrated both the literary and visual masterpieces and the minor works of the writers and painters of that era.

Examining the period of 1798 to 1923, Strange and Secret Peoples focuses not only on such popular literary figures as Charles Dickens and William Butler Yeats, but on writers as diverse as Thomas Carlyle, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charlotte Mew; on artists as varied as mad Richard Dadd, Aubrey Beardsley, and Sir Joseph Noel Paton; and on artifacts ranging from fossil skulls to photographs and vases. Silver demonstrates how beautiful and monstrous creatures--fairies and swan maidens, goblins and dwarfs, cretins and changelings, elementals and pygmies--simultaneously peopled the Victorian imagination and inhabited nineteenth-century science and belief. Her book reveals the astonishing complexity and fertility of the Victorian consciousness: its modernity and antiquity, its desire to naturalize the supernatural, its pervasive eroticism fused with sexual anxiety, and its drive for racial and imperial dominion.

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Clap if you believe in fairies! The Victorians did, writes Carole Silver in Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness, but she's not exactly talking about Tinkerbell here. Silver prefers the more gruesome and treacherous species of fay: changelings and vampires, brownies and goblins. The Victorians took these creatures very seriously, indeed, and according to Silver, this belief tapped into some of their society's most fundamental anxieties. Fear of physical deformity, of women's sexual power, of racial or class difference: these were the true bogeymen that haunted the Victorian imagination, and they responded with a flood of art, literature, and theater that portrayed these imaginary creatures with equal measures of fascination and horror. Silver even argues that many if not most Victorians believed in the actual physical existence of fairies, citing contemporary news accounts as her evidence. Why fairies? Creatures of the imagination and of the rural past, they offered refuge from an increasingly mechanized and empirical age. More ominously, they also provided expression for some of an imperialist nation's nastier beliefs, embodied in figures from Dr. Jekyll to Snow White's dwarves. Exhaustively researched and engagingly written, Strange and Secret Peoples is an original look at the complexities and contradictions of Victorian culture.

About the Author:


Carole G. Silver is a Professor of English and holds the Humanities Chair at Yeshiva University (Stern College). She is also Adjunct Professor of English at New York University. Among her publications are The Romance of William Morris and The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by William Morris.

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 1999. Hardback. Condition: New. New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Teeming with creatures, both real and imagined, this encyclopedic study in cultural history illuminates the hidden web of connections between the Victorian fascination with fairies and their lore and the dominant preoccupations of Victorian culture at large. Carole Silver here draws on sources ranging from the anthropological, folkloric, and occult to the legal, historical, and medical. She is the first to anatomize a world peopled by strange beings who haveinfiltrated both the literary and visual masterpieces and the minor works of the writers and painters of that era. Examining the period of 1798 to 1923, Strange and Secret Peoples focuses not only on such popular literary figures as Charles Dickens and William Butler Yeats, but on writers as diverse as Thomas Carlyle, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charlotte Mew; on artists as varied as mad Richard Dadd, Aubrey Beardsley, and Sir Joseph Noel Paton; and on artifacts ranging from fossil skulls to photographs and vases. Silver demonstrates how beautiful and monstrous creatures-fairies and swan maidens,goblins and dwarfs, cretins and changelings, elementals and pygmies-simultaneously peopled the Victorian imagination and inhabited nineteenth-century science and belief. Her book reveals the astonishing complexity and fertility of the Victorian consciousness: its modernity and antiquity, its desire to naturalizethe supernatural, its pervasive eroticism fused with sexual anxiety, and its drive for racial and imperial dominion. Seller Inventory # APC9780195121995

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