Editor: Kate Flint
Publisher:  Cambridge University Press – 774 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

Victorian literature is literature, mainly written in English, during the reign of Queen Victoria  from 1837 to 1901. It is called the Victorian era, and it was preceded by Romanticism beginning in the 1770s, and followed by the Edwardian era, from 1901 to 1910. Victorian literature took numerous forms such as poetry (lyrics) and prose, such as  descriptive, narrative, and other forms.

This large volume on Victorian literature is a compilation of articles by 33 authors, many of whom are professors at colleges and universities in the United Kingdom and the United States, teaching subjects related to fiction-writing such as novels and short stories, and non-fiction writing such as autobiographies and biographies, and news (e.g. Victorian journalism) and verse-writing such as poetry.

The articles in the 33 chapters of this book listed below are organized around six Parts. Here below are the chapter titles to provide you a broad overview of what is inside this book;

  1. Part I – Authors, Readers, and Publishers
  2. Publishing and the materiality of the book
  3. Victorian reading
  4. Periodicals and reviewing
  5. Part II – Writing Victoria’s England
  6. The expansion of Britain
  7. High Victorianism
  8. The fin de siecle
  9. Part III – Modes of Writing
  10. Lyric and the lyrical
  11. Epic
  12. Melodrama
  13. Sensation
  14. Autobiography
  15. Comic and satirical
  16. Innovation and experiment
  17. Writing for children
  18. Part IV – Matters of Debate
  19. Education
  20. Spirituality
  21. Material
  22. Economics and finance
  23. History
  24. Sexuality
  25. Aesthetics
  26. Science and literature
  27. Subjectivity, psychology, and the imagination
  28. Cityscapes
  29. The rural scene: Victorian literature and the natural world
  30. ‘The annihilation of space and time’: literature and technology
  31. Part V – Spaces of Writing
  32. Spaces of the nineteenth –century novel
  33. National and regional literatures
  34. Britain and Europe
  35. Victorian empire
  36. Writing about America
  37. Part VI – Victorian Afterlives
  38. 1900 and the debut de siècle: poetry, drama, fiction
  39. The future of Victorian literature

In this volume, the contributors (including the editor) who are essentially scholars in their respective fields, do the following:

  • Introduce readers o their particular fields
  • Discuss influential public debates
  • Offer illuminating contextual detail to situate authors and works in their wider cultural and historical contexts

You will find discussions on interesting topics such as: cityscapes, economics, epics, melodrama, sensations, and sexuality.

Victorian writing in this book is placed in Britain’s complex relationship with Europe, America, and Britain’s component nations (former colonies). The last two chapters in this volume discuss Victorian literature since 1900 – particularly drama, fiction, and poetry – and its prospects in the coming years.



Kate Flint is Provost Professor of English and Art History at the University of Southern California.