Scholarly understanding of the Victorian literary field has changed dramatically in the past thirty years, due in large part to the extensive recovery of sensation fiction and a corresponding recognition of that genre’s importance in the literary debates, trends, and wider cultural practices of the period. Yet until very recently, work on sensationalism has focused on a narrow range of authors and works, with Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Ellen Wood retaining the preponderance of critical attention.
This collection examines the fiction of ten women sensation writers who were immensely popular in the Victorian period but remain critically neglected today – writers such as Annie Edwardes, M.C. Houstoun, Annie French, Dora Russell and others. The Victorian sensation novel was categorically associated with women by Victorian reviewers and this collection extends our current understanding of this sub-genre by showing that female sensation writers were often sophisticated in their textual strategies, employing a range of metafictional techniques and narrative innovations. By moving beyond the novelists who have come to represent the genre, this book presents a fuller, more nuanced, understanding of the spectrum of writing that constructed the concept of ‘sensationalism’ for Victorian readers and critics.
The book was originally published as a special issue of Women’s Writing.