Publication details

Criticism and Prejudice : The Issue of Canonicity and Neo-Victorian Works



Year of publication 2021
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The issue of literary canonicity is usually approached through two opposing positions which are either for or against the canon being opened to a greater variety of texts. Harold Bloom in his work The Western Canon strongly argues against such opening as in his opinion this would lead to the canon being destroyed. This selectivity also leads to the exclusion of historical novels which are often described as historically inaccurate works lacking originality and serving only the purpose of escapism. This contempt, however, leads to discrediting of an enormous genre which contains works that deserve further consideration. While historical novels often fail to avoid this prejudice, it seems that neo-Victorian works attempt to differentiate themselves from the former. Arguably, this could be viewed as an effort to avoid some of the criticism and also to prove that works that revisit the past do not chiefly romanticize it. Currently, neo-Victorian works have the advantage of being at the forefront of discussion. Therefore, it is crucial to use this opportunity to look at their strengths and weaknesses and re-evaluate whether the concept of canonicity is something these works can benefit from, or whether such concept is to be refused. The presentation uses John Fowles’s well-known neo-Victorian novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Peter Ackroyd’s Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem as illustrative examples of the issues connected to canonicity and the criticism of works that take place in the past. The French Lieutenant´s Woman is one of the first examples of the neo-Victorian genre and therefore often regarded as canonical. Ackroyd´s novel also occupies a notable place in neo-Victorian discourse and both works amply manage to challenge the criticism by surpassing the limiting and often prejudiced description of the historical/neo-Victorian genre.
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