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CHAPTER 41. Sensation Fiction

Mark Knight


Subject Literature, Religion

Key-Topics Bible, fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131605.2009.00041.x


Extract

Although “sensation fiction” is often understood to refer to a group of novels written during the 1860s, the term predated the decade and continued to be applied to works written well after 1870. Moreover, the term “sensation” meant more than a particular type of fiction, as Jenny Bourne Taylor (1988 , p. 2) explains: “Sensation” was one of the keywords of the 1860s. It encapsulated the particular way in which the middle-class sense of cultural crisis was experienced during that decade. … In one sense this wasn't so much a coherent literary tendency or genre, more a critical term held together by the word “sensation” itself. Scholarly attention to sensation fiction has tended to focus on the work of more familiar novelists such as Wilkie Collins, Mary Braddon and Mrs Henry Wood. However, as Andrew Maunder's Varieties of Women's Sensation Fiction has shown, there were a great many authors of sensation narratives who have since been forgotten. Their work was discussed at the time by a range of authors and cultural commentators, including Sigismund Smith, the fictional “sensation author” ( Braddon, 1998 , p. 11) who appears in the curiously self-reflexive opening to Mary Braddon's The Doctor's Wife (1864). Smith's work as “the author of about half a dozen highly-spiced fictions, which enjoyed an immense popularity amongst the classes who like their literature as they like their ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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