A Discussion on the Victorian Novel Canon and Underrepresented Sensation Women Novelists
The Victorians are known as a novel-writing and novel-reading society, which makes it nearly impossible to judge the exact number of novels that were published in the period. The novel industry was central to many Victorian concerns: novel-writing was a way of making money for numerous middle-class writers and novel-reading functioned as a domestic entertainment. Also, many novels were written as a medium of reflecting social, political issues and novel was used as a way of influencing reading populations. This is perhaps why the range of novelists in the Victorian era can be astounding. Countless number of middle-class novelists wrote novels just to make ends meet. Yet, salient political figures such as Benjamin Disraeli, a Tory politician, a Member of Parliament and also the Prime Minister (1868), produced novels to shape the public opinion. In spite of this variety, only a handful of Victorian novelists secured a canonical status today while numerous others were pushed to oblivion. This caused a tendency to categorize Victorian novelists as major, classical, canonical or minor, non-canonical, underrepresented. Many novelists in the latter category were popular best-sellers of their time but they were neglected because of the flexible and changing nature of the literary canon. Especially sensation women novelists of the period suffered from this. Even though they were the best-sellers of the period, they were excluded from the publishing market and lost their readership in time. This article will thus discuss the fluctuating nature of the literary canon with a particular emphasis on the formation of the Victorian novel canon. Finally, the reasons of exclusion and resurrection of two Victorian best-seller women novelists will be exemplified: Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915) and Ellen Wood (1814-1887).
Auerbach, Emily. “Jane Austen (1775-1817).” Nineteenth-Century British Women
Writers A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Abigail Burnham
Bloom. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000. 10-19. Print.
Bloom, Abigail Burnham. (Ed.) Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers A Bio- Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000. Print.
Bloom, Clive. Bestsellers Popular Fiction Since 1900. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Print.
Boardman, Kay and Shirley Jones. Introduction. Popular Victorian Women Writers. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2004. 1-22. Print.
Calvino, Italo. “Why Read the Classics?” Why Read the Classics? Trans. Martin
McLaughlin. New York: Pantheon Books, 1999. 3-11. Print.
“Canon.” Sonya Andermahr, Terry Lovell, Carol Wolkowitz. Eds. A Concise Glossary of Feminist Theory. London: Arnold, 1997. Print.
“Canon.” Maggie Humm. Ed. The Dictionary of Feminist Theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2003. Print.
Cvetkovich, Ann. Mixed Feelings Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism. New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 1992. Print.
Eagleton, Mary. Working With Feminist Criticism. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996. Print.
Eliot, George. “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.” 1856. Victorian Criticism of the Novel. Ed. Edwin M. Eigner and George J. Worth. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1985. 159-180. Print.
Grose, Janet L. “Ellen Price Wood (Mrs. Henry Wood) (1814-1887).” Nineteenth- Century British Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Abigail Burnham Bloom. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000. 411-414. Print.
Guillory, John. Cultural Capital The Problem of Literary Canon Formation. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993. Print.
Harrison, Kimberly and Richard Fantina. Introduction. Victorian Sensations: Essays on a Scandalous Genre. Ohio: Ohio State UP, 2006. ix-3. Print.
Jay, Elisabeth. Introduction. Easy Lynne. 1861. By Ellen Wood. New York: Oxford UP. 2005. vii-xxxix. Print.
Langland, Elizabeth. Telling Tales: Gender and Narrative Form in Victorian Literature and Culture. Ohio: Ohio State UP, 2002. Print.
Leavis, F. R. The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad. 1948. London: Penguin, 1993. Print.
Mullan, John. How Novels Work. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.
Oliphant, Margaret. “Sensation Novels.” Blackwood’s Magazine. (1862): 168-183. Web. Retreived July 28, 2015, http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015028028580
---. “Novels.” Blackwood’s Magazine. (1867): 564-584.Web. Retreived July 28, 2015,
Poole, Adrian. Introduction. The Cambridge Companion to English Novelists. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. 1-14. Print.
Pykett, Lyn. Afterword. Beyond Sensation: Mary Elizabeth Braddon in Context. Ed. Pamela K. Gilbert, Aeron Haynie and Marlene Tromp. New York: State U of New York P, 2000. 277-280. Print.
Radford, Andrew. Victorian Sensation Fiction. Ed. Nicolas Tredell. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.
Reidhead, Julia. Ed. The Norton Anthology English Literature. 8th Ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. Print.
Robbins, Ruth. “Mapping the Future of Victorian Studies.” The Victorian Literature Handbook. Eds. Alexandra Warwick and Martin Willis. New York: Continuum, 2008. 205-215. Print.
Shaw, Marion. “Victorian Women Prose-Writers.” The Victorians. Ed. Arthur Poland. London: Penguin, 1993. 199-239. Print.
Smiley, Jane. 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel. London: Faber & Faber, 2006. Print.
Stebbins, Lucy Poate. A Victorian Album: Some Lady Novelists of the Period. 1946. New York: AMS Press, 1966. Print.
Sutherland, John. The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1989. Print.
Thomas, Jane. “Changes in the Literary Canon.” The Victorian Literature Handbook. Eds. Alexandra Warwick and Martin Willis. New York: Continuum, 2008. 163-177. Print.
Tuchman, Gaye and Nina E. Fortin. Edging Women Out: Victorian Novelists, Publishers, and Social Change. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989. Print.
Virago Press. Phoebe Junior. 1876. Margaret Oliphant. London: Virago Classics, 1989. n.p. Print.
Weedon, Chris. Feminist Practice & Poststructuralist Theory. Oxford: Blackwell, 1987. Print.
Woolf, Virginia. “Women and Fiction.” Virginia Woolf on Women and Writing. Ed. Michéle Barrett. London: The Women’s Press, 1979. 43-53. Print.
Authors who publish with Journal of Narrarive and Language Studies (NALANS) agree to the following terms:
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in NALANS.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in NALANS.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.