Literary Bric-a-brac and the Victorians: From Commodities to Oddities (BOK)
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What are we to make of the Victorians' fascination with collecting? What effect did their encounters with the curious, exotic and downright odd have on Victorian writers and their works? The essays in this collection take up these questions by examining the phenomenon of bric-a-brac in Victorian society. While recent studies have attempted to separate bric-a-brac out into separate categories, thus obscuring the term's identification with oddity, the contributors to Literary Bric-a-Brac explore sites of unusual concurrence (museums, the home, galleries, private collections, auction houses) and the way in which bric-a-brac brought the alien into everyday settings, the past into the present and the wild into the domestic. Of central importance are how commercial exchange, buying and selling and the meeting of poverty and wealth underwrite the notion of bric-a-brac. Individual chapters analyse the work of writers as different as Edward Lear and John Henry Newman, Robert Browning and George Eliot, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll. The themes and objects examined are equally diverse, ranging from the grandiose and flamboyant to the apparently humdrum and inconsequential. As they hone in on how and why the 'things' of Victorian literature and culture are by turns moral, social, political, sexual or simply nonsensical, the essays shed light on a dizzying array of topics and objects that include class and capitalism, the occult and the sacraments, Darwinism and dandyism, umbrellas, textiles, the Philosopher's Stone, and even doornails.