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Relics of Death in Victorian Literature and Culture


Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: July 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107434394

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About the Authors
  • Nineteenth-century Britons treasured objects of daily life that had once belonged to their dead. The love of these keepsakes, which included hair, teeth, and other remains, speaks of an intimacy with the body and death, a way of understanding absence through its materials, which is less widely felt today. Deborah Lutz analyzes relic culture as an affirmation that objects held memories and told stories. These practices show a belief in keeping death vitally intertwined with life - not as memento mori but rather as respecting the singularity of unique beings. In a consumer culture in full swing by the 1850s, keepsakes of loved ones stood out as non-reproducible, authentic things whose value was purely personal. Through close reading of the works of Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, and others, this study illuminates the treasuring of objects that had belonged to or touched the dead.

    • Explores the material nature of attitudes toward death in Victorian Britain
    • Analyses the collecting and revering of relics as affirmations that objects held memories and told stories
    • Sheds new light on the work and thought of canonical writers, including Brontë, Dickens, Tennyson and Hardy
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… Lutz's study invites us to re-consider the centrality of grief and the persistence of mourning across nineteenth-century art and literature.' Michael J. Sullivan, Tennyson Research Bulletin

    '… Lutz supplies a fascinating discussion of the many ways besides lockets of hair that Victorians preserved parts of their loved ones' corpses as relics. … Lutz reveals that death was an intimate part of life for Victorians - not ghastly and Other, as it is for us.' Sarah Gates, Dickens Studies Annual

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107434394
    • length: 261 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.356kg
    • contains: 16 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: lyrical matter
    1. Infinite materiality: Keats, D. G. Rossetti and the Romantics
    2. The miracle of ordinary things: Brontë and Wuthering Heights
    3. The many faces of death masks: Dickens and Great Expectations
    4. The elegy as shrine: Tennyson and 'In Memoriam'
    5. Hair jewelry as congealed time: Hardy and Far from the Madding Crowd
    Afterword: death as death

  • Author

    Deborah Lutz, Long Island University, New York
    Deborah Lutz is an Associate Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture at Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus. She is the author of Pleasure Bound: Victorian Sex Rebels and the New Eroticism (2011) and The Dangerous Lover: Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the Nineteenth-Century Seduction Narrative (2006).

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