Tag Archives: 19th-Century Literature

Things That are More Victorian than Victorian Literature: Crimson Peak

I’m back! Though I can’t make any promises about when my next post will be, due to a combination of overwork and my frankly hellish mental state these days.

Speaking of hellish, though: I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about something as obviously Victorian as Guillermo del Torro’s thriller/romance Crimson Peak. I also couldn’t write about it effectively without giving away major plot points, however, so read at your own peril…

I was going to begin this post with something like “I came to Crimson Peak for the incest and stayed for the class commentary,” but then it hit me just how thoroughly the Shmoop writing style has permeated my consciousness, and I began to feel a little bad about the extreme glibness of my writing these days. Though—as you see—not bad enough to resist throwing the line in anyway. Continue reading

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A Tale of Two Cities Clutch

I was hoping my next post would be a review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. Unfortunately, there was a call on the book and I had to return it to the library before I had the chance to finish it. No word yet on when I may get it back. All I can really say at the moment is so far so good, and I truly hope I haven’t forgotten the beginning by the time I have a chance to read the ending.

In the meantime, though, it gives me an excuse to post these pictures of the new clutch I got a few months ago (technically a belated Christmas present from my mom). I’ve talked in the past about my fondness for literary accouterments, and this one is pretty unique. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Who Self-Destruct

Since I recently wrote a post on tragedy, and am currently in the middle of writing another lesson on tragedy (Things Fall Apart), I felt it was high time to compile a list of my favorite characters who self-destruct. And this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, gave me the perfect excuse to do so. I ran out of time and didn’t quite make it to ten, but that just gives me more room to play in the future. Continue reading


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(Sort of but Not Really) Reviving the “Tragic Flaw”

Being (I guess) a morose kind of person, I spent a large chunk of my time in graduate school researching tragedy. I was specifically interested in the concept of gendered tragedy in George Eliot’s novels—a kind of tragedy in which the protagonist’s agency is always already radically curtailed by virtue of her sex. What would hamartia—the “error” made by the prototypical tragic protagonist—look like in such cases?

Of course, one of the first things I discovered while researching was the fact that the pop culture understanding of tragedy—and of hamartia in particular—is grossly misinformed. Most of us, I think, were told sometime in junior high that a tragic hero has a tragic flaw—some kind of moral failing that precipitates his downfall. This, as it turns out, is almost certainly not what Aristotle had in mind when he wrote the Poetics; though hamartia can refer to an error in moral judgment, it can just as easily refer to an error with no readily discernable moral dimensions. And even if we do take Aristotle to mean the former, it strikes me that this is not quite the same as a character flaw: the emphasis is on a discrete moment in time in which the character made a mistake rather than on an inherent tendency (or, at the very least, a pattern of behavior). Continue reading

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My Gripe with Stephanie Meyer (Besides the Obvious)

If there’s one thing I’ll never forgive Stephanie Meyer for (besides general misogynistic grossness), it’s ruining the Brontës for me.

Let me tell you a little story, in belated honor of Valentine’s Day. I did not read Jane Eyre until my sophomore year of college. I read it because I was required to read it for a course, and if I hadn’t been forced to read it then, it probably would have been years before I got around to it. I had read (and adored) Wuthering Heights, but the things I liked about Wuthering Heights were not things I expected to find in Jane Eyre. I thought at the time that I only enjoyed love stories with a twist. Star-crossed love, obsessive love, unrequited love—they all fascinate me; what I didn’t like (and still, for the most part, don’t like) in a story is happily-ever-ever love. I knew Jane Eyre was more or less a happily-ever-after kind of romance, and as a 19 year old with pretensions of academic seriousness, I didn’t expect to like it. Continue reading


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Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Film Adaptations

This week’s “freebie” Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, gave me the perfect excuse to do a post I’ve been mulling over for a while—a list of my favorite film adaptations. I couldn’t quite stick to ten, and I’m sure I’ll want to revise this list tomorrow to include something I forgot, but whatever.

Two or three notes before we get started, though. I picked movies that are my favorites, not necessarily the best films ever made, because there are a number of adaptations that succeed aesthetically but take their material from works I just don’t especially like, for one reason or another (Gone With the Wind comes to mind). I’m also drawing the line at “real” adaptations rather than loose, inspired-by ventures, to make things a little more manageable (although it pained me greatly to leave off The Lion King, which is—depending on who’s talking—either a light(er)hearted, kid’s version of Hamlet or out-and-out plagiarism of a Japanese series). And difficult as it was, I’m also limiting myself to theatrical releases rather than TV productions (but seriously, everyone, go watch the 2005 BBC version of Bleak House).

Based on my selections, you’ll also likely notice that despite my occasional snarkiness, I’m basically a squishy idealist at heart, so fair warning. In no particular order: Continue reading


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Penny Dreadful: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Roughly)

Please Note: The following contains spoilers for much of the first season of Penny Dreadful, because I just don’t care.

Every so often, I start to feel vaguely and irrationally guilty about my inability to stay on top of all the TV shows that sound promising. Guilt quickly progresses to something like anxiety, and I feel an absurd but pressing need to play catch-up right away. So I really ought to have known better than to follow a link to an article entitled “The 17 Best New Shows of 2014”—the only thing that could come of that was stress.

I also should probably know better than to take life advice from Buzzfeed. But since I apparently don’t, I have to admit that I was intrigued by their synopsis of Penny Dreadful, which they describe as “an existential thriller that is far more cerebral than it appears from the outside, posing philosophical questions about the nature of life and death, transgression and absolution, power and responsibility.” I guess I was still riding the high of finally discovering why everyone raves about Sarah Waters, because I was all set for Penny Dreadful to be a truly ingenious riff on classic Victorian literature. Continue reading


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Money, Money, Money, Money (and Novels)

Merry Christmas! In honor of the brazen (if unusually honest) Western Union commercial proclaiming money “king” this holiday season, let’s talk about money.

If someone asked me to name a novel that’s largely about money, my first thought would probably be Our Mutual Friend. According to Thomas Piketty—economist and author of the wildly popular Capital in the Twenty-First Century—that’s not just because I’ve read too much Victorian fiction. As a recent Slate article helpfully notes for those of us who just can’t stomach 700 pages of economics, even for a good cause, Piketty argues that in the early 20th century, novels became increasingly less interested in money as money itself ceased to be a “stable reference point” following massive inflation and a temporary reduction in wealth inequality. If I might risk paraphrasing Slate’s paraphrase (always a dangerous proposition): Earlier references to money in literature were a way of ordering the world in knowable ways, so when money itself became a slipperier signifier, it ceased to have the same value (har har) for authors. Continue reading


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Fingersmith, or: The Most Victorian Novel Ever Was Written in 2002

Regrettably, this will be a fairly short (and very informal) post; I have to return my copy of Fingersmith to the library, so I don’t have time to mine it for the quotes that would allow me to talk about it in more detail. I also haven’t quite decided whether the title of this post is misleading—whether Fingersmith really is a true-blue Victorian novel (just with a queer twist), or whether its use of so many quintessentially Victorian tropes and plot devices somehow makes it even more postmodern than, say, The French Lieutenant’s Woman or Possession (two other wonderful 20th/21st-century spins on 19th-century literature). Either way, though, it’s a fascinating book. Continue reading


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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters You Wish Would Get Their Own Book

I don’t tend to participate in a lot of literary memes, but as a reader who’s constantly longing for more insight into her favorite characters, I just couldn’t resist this one, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. It will probably surprise no one that there’s a feminist slant to many of these (“imagine x novel, but from the woman’s perspective!”), but I have tried to think outside my most familiar box, with the following results (in no particular order): Continue reading


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