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Subject Literature » Nineteenth Century Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781118405383.2015.00002.x


The Victorian period, more than any other before it, provides a truly daunting challenge to the editors of an encyclopedia of British literature. Although the era takes its name from a single person, Queen Victoria (1819–1901, reigning 1837–1901), what constitutes Victorian literature extends outward to include all aspects of this rich and expansive epoch. The Victorian period has been often, though not universally, defined as spanning 1832–1901, the period we have taken as our rubric here. Those sixty-nine years begin with the first official incursion of middle-class voters into parliamentary politics; it also sees the full explosion of a mass market, with the print production of pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, advertising, and books dwarfing the total print output of everything printed before this period, from the invention of the Gutenberg press in the fifteenth century to the Reform Act of 1832. In addition, the British empire extended its reach to almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area and to one-fifth of the world's population. Partly in recognition of this plenitude, the field of Victorian Studies has traditionally included not only literature but also history, art history, economics, the history of science—indeed all aspects of and interdisciplinary approaches to this period. That said, given our brief as editors of The Encyclopedia of Victorian Literature ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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