Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousnessby Carole G. Silver
Teeming with creatures, both real and imagined, this encyclopedic study in cultural history illuminates the hidden web of connections between the Victorian fascination with fairies and their lore and the dominant preoccupations of Victorian culture at large. Carole Silver here draws on sources ranging from the anthropological, folkloric, and occult to the legal,
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Teeming with creatures, both real and imagined, this encyclopedic study in cultural history illuminates the hidden web of connections between the Victorian fascination with fairies and their lore and the dominant preoccupations of Victorian culture at large. Carole Silver here draws on sources ranging from the anthropological, folkloric, and occult to the legal, historical, and medical. She is the first to anatomize a world peopled by strange beings who have infiltrated both the literary and visual masterpieces and the minor works of the writers and painters of that era.
Examining the period of 1798 to 1923, Strange and Secret Peoples focuses not only on such popular literary figures as Charles Dickens and William Butler Yeats, but on writers as diverse as Thomas Carlyle, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Charlotte Mew; on artists as varied as mad Richard Dadd, Aubrey Beardsley, and Sir Joseph Noel Paton; and on artifacts ranging from fossil skulls to photographs and vases. Silver demonstrates how beautiful and monstrous creaturesfairies and swan maidens, goblins and dwarfs, cretins and changelings, elementals and pygmiessimultaneously peopled the Victorian imagination and inhabited nineteenth-century science and belief. Her book reveals the astonishing complexity and fertility of the Victorian consciousness: its modernity and antiquity, its desire to naturalize the supernatural, its pervasive eroticism fused with sexual anxiety, and its drive for racial and imperial dominion.
"While Silver presents a mainly academic approach, it is highly readable and fascinating material to anyone who loves this literary period."Michigan Alumnus Magazine
"Carol G. Silver does much to remedy the dearth of historical analysis in this rich field.... Silver's book is a significant contribution to this fascinating hallmark of the Victorian era."Victorian Review [Canada]
"[A] fascinating account...Silver, a literature professor, provides a generally valuable service in integrating anthropological, linguistic, and folkloric materials into her discussion of Victorian conceptions of alternative worlds of existence. Recommended especially for Victorian specialists and sophisticated readers of fairy tales."Choice
"This is an entertaining and informative study of Victorian culture....Provides some of the most original reading on the subject we have."The New York Times Book Review
"Highly accessible....This is essential for academic libraries, and highly recommended for public libraries as well."Library Journal
"This is a masterful examination of [the nineteenth] century's burgeoning interest in the folklore of fairies, and an interpretation of this folklore in cultural and political terms.... This is a long overdue study, especially significant to anyone interested in the full range of Victorian culture from its scientific and pseudoscientific extensions of Darwinism, ethnography, and genetics to its focus on the occult 'sciences'theosophy, spiritualism, and so on."Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies
"[Features] the choicest discoveries...Silver has culled from her vast reading in fairy lore and the Victorian folklorists....Handsomely illustrated."Studies in English Literature
- Oxford University Press
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Meet the Author
Carole G. Silver is Professor of English and holds the Humanities Chair at Yeshiva University (Stern College). She is also Adjunct Professor of English at New York University. Among her publications are The Romance of William Morris and The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by William Morris.
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