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Victorian Literary Cultures: Studies in Textual Subversion provides readers with close textual analyses regarding the role of subversive acts or tendencies in Victorian literature. By drawing clear cultural contexts for the works under review—including such canonical texts as Dracula, Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, and stories featuring Sherlock Holmes—the critics in this anthology offer groundbreaking studies of subversion as a literary motif.
For some late nineteenth-century British novelists, subversion was a central aspect of their writerly existence. Although—or perhaps because—most Victorian authors composed their works for a general and mixed audience, many writers employed strategies designed to subvert genteel expectations. In addition to using coded and oblique subject matter, such figures also hid their transgressive material “in plain sight.” While some writers sought to critique, and even destabilize, their society, others juxtaposed subversive themes and aesthetics negatively with communal norms in hopes of quashing progressive agendas.