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The Bigamy Plot
Sensation and Convention in the Victorian Novel


Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: May 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107103160

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About the Authors
  • The courtship plot dominates accounts of the Victorian novel, but this innovative study turns instead to a narrative phenomenon that upends its familiar conventions: the bigamy plot. In hundreds of novels, plays, and poems published in Victorian Great Britain, husbands or wives thought dead suddenly reappear to their newly remarried spouses. In the sensation fiction of Braddon and Collins, these bigamous revelations lead to bribery, arson, and murder, but the same plot operates in the canonical fiction of Charlotte Brontë, Dickens, Eliot, Thackeray, and Hardy. These authors employ bigamy plots to destabilize the apparently conventional form and values of the Victorian novel. By close examination of this plot, including an index of nearly 300 bigamy novels, Maia McAleavey makes the case for a historical approach to narrative, one that is grounded in the legal and social changes of the period but that runs counter to our own formal and cultural expectations.

    • The first extended study of the prevalent bigamy plot, filling an important gap in the history of the Victorian novel
    • Revises the common view of the Victorian novel that links its narrative structure to courtship and marriage
    • Provides an exhaustive appendix of nearly 300 novels featuring a bigamy plot and detailed close readings of familiar and unfamiliar novels
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The Bigamy Plot is an important contribution to Victorian studies and narrative theory.' Tara MacDonald, Review of English Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2015
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107103160
    • length: 260 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • contains: 4 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. A Wife and Not a Wife:
    1. The plot in time: historical bigamy and Sylvia's Lovers
    2. The plot in space: skeletons in the closet in Jane Eyre and East Lynne
    Part II. Dead Yet Not Dead:
    3. David Copperfield's angelic bigamy
    4. Dorothea's simultaneous remarriage
    Part III. Sensational and Canonical:
    5. Colonial return: Pendennis and Lady Audley's Secret
    6. The improper end: Aurora Floyd and Jude the Obscure
    Coda: the end of bigamy
    Appendix: list of Victorian bigamy novels

  • Author

    Maia McAleavey, Boston College, Massachusetts
    Maia McAleavey is Assistant Professor in the English Department at Boston College. She has published articles on Victorian literature in Representations, Victorian Studies, the Dickens Studies Annual and Victorian Review.

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