Victorian fantasy is widely considered the masterpiece of English Literature, especially in UK-British novels. Although it reflects on events that people went through in the past, it is an art form that opposes the repressive social, economic, and intellectual conditions. Victorian fantasy became a leading literary genre in English because it covered science, utilitarianism, serialization, industrialization, progress, to mention but a few. In the novel, the author, Stephen Prickett, explored voice, identity, and authenticity issues in literary texts. According to him, Victorian writers utilized non-realistic techniques such as visions, nonsense, and dreams to create other worlds that extended the understanding of the existing world. In this paper, the focus is to sketch and discuss how Victorian fantasy explored the issue of identity, voice, and authenticity in its literary texts.
The Issue of Identity in the Victorian Fantasy
Victorians fantasy explores works that gained attention for the reason that they unraveled issues that were once familiar and strange in England. The issues gained popularity due to their impact on society, politics, and technology. As a result, a real-world emanated because the problems such as Nostalgia, women’s questions, and more were addressed. In particular, the depiction of various issues demonstrated that the writers were voicing the issue of identity and how different people are perceived in society. Equally, complex challenges such as the representation of gender, ethnic, racial, religious, and regional were brought up, questioning why they have taken long to be considered. Most writers were from marginalized groups whose identity differed from Victorian literature’s white English-speaking Victorian mainstream. In other words, they were among the group of less privileged who lacked full rights and citizenship. This perception occurred in all entities affecting the ‘others’ significantly.
The Victorian fantasy author focuses on writers such as Lear, MacDonald, Nesbit, Kingsley, Kipling, and Carroll to tell how they influenced each other to question the idea of Victorian culture and society. For instance, Galchinsky asserts that England government reinforces a barrier that denies other people their rights and privileges of citizenship (2). In particular, the immigration policies, economic and political restrictions, newspaper articles, to mention the least, are among the major incarnations that give a voice of suspicion that members of the non-white are inferior. It seems clear that all these writers aimed to explore the issue of identity and otherness in England. How society treats ‘others’ as aliens, inferior and unassimilable poses a question on how a society can be related to a unified state. At the same time, the writers discuss the social and political status of the Jews, immigrants from other colonies, and other non-confronting Christian groups. In England, all these groups of people are treated and inferior and less of human beings. This means their identity is lost since they do not share a common belief and sense of belonging. An issue that attracts criticism is religious affiliation. Non-confronting Christians automatically lose their identity. Though it is a fantasy, people were only recognized and treated with respect if they were Jews during that time. While these issues attracted attention to the issue of representation, they lacked historical contexts. However, it is true that such representations were for most parts but were constantly shifting in terms of meaning with time.
While writers whose race, ethnicity, region, and religion were the main focus in English literature, the Victorian fantasy explored neglected literary texts (Galchinsky 2). Whether marginalized or not, all writers produce kinds of literature that are proactive and productive with hegemonic literature. It is high time for the colonial critics to introduce readers to what was considered as ‘other’ in order to provide a sense of balance in the period of literary history. Such direction will bring light to the forgotten writings and give a fuller and accurate account of the Victorian literary texts. Victorian literature has many ways of articulating the English ideology to the imperial identity without considering race, religion, or regional issues. Literary representations appear in the novel where different writers encourage each other to critique and question why some people are treated as less fortunate by relating to the characteristics of representations. In particular, the literary representation of the Jews and Jewishness serves as a starting point to understand the Victorian discourse. As highlighted by Galchinsky, the stereotypical Jew allows the reader to view the non-confronting Christian as the ‘other.’ Jews and Jewish were used in the Victorian fantasy to illustrate England’s cultural production (2).
The issue of identity posed a question in the legitimacy of a proper society since some people were treated as though England did not belong to them. They were outsiders in the western hegemony, and therefore, the society could not accept them because of great interest by legitimates own hand (Dessler 2). However, Victorian fantasy aimed to criticize the flaws by pointing out the notion of supposedly detached distance. After all, there is no unity in a society if the government attempts to hide the strings that pull social cohesion. This is true because it involves the treatment of illegitimate others hence changing the shared identity. The use of illegitimate others became a major motif since it resulted in unfavorable laws. However, the Victorian writers supported each other in a bid to destroy the cultures that had already been created. For instance, through Charles Dicken’s Bleak House and Great Expectations, the writers ensure that those represented as ‘others’ gained a sense of belonging and a voice by creating an internal subaltern culture (Dessler 9). The writers used identity as a problem for legitimate cultures to break the bonds and barriers that could have affected them in the long term. The less fortunate gained power through commodification, which allowed them to have self-control over discourse. Victorian writers proposed scientific tracks to demarcate and prioritize imagined shades of colors, which scientists call races. They explored the representation of each character in a larger Victorian project by comparing all Victorian discourses of otherness. The issue of identity is not a problem of society but individuals and therefore something that should change because Victorian literary texts were both genres of fantasy and historical fiction.
The Issue of Voice in the Victorian Fantasy
Victorian culture still lagged behind attention on print culture. The writers started to look at different ways in which the stories can be produced and printed, for instance, in newspapers to consume the stories. According to Kreilkamp, imaginary voice construction could only be achieved if storytelling followed intellectual autonomy and turned into an information culture (34). Not all literary works could be accepted or rather consumed during the nineteen-century. Only a few belonged to the whites, and writers considered hegemonic. The poems and fairy tales aimed at heterogeneity in that contemporary attention was necessary to illuminate a charismatic voice that can break the warpages and articulate the universal visible power.
There is an explicit conflict between the features of belief and unbelief in Britain, articulating nineteenth-century literature’s voice. These literary texts articulated de-familiarized texts placing them outside the Victorian religious framework. In particular, fantasy novels explored the issue of religious belief without the limitations of realism. There were changing conditions of belief, and differences kept growing. Many people doubted faith but believed in magic or supernatural ghostly grandmothers. In other words, they were concerned about how one could believe in the immortal other than the exact form of transcendence. However, Victorian writers attempted to create better human life by illustrating the power of humanity after it had separated from God (Sanders 17). The speculative novel articulates how Britain as a whole can have a voice by suggesting the desperate need for traditional Christianity beyond secular one. It seemed that Britain had no voice regarding the belief system, for it was relying on supernatural powers, which did not even exist. Through the influence of Victorian fantasy, traditional Christianity came into place and ensured that infamous monsters that involved the society were flown out. Based on the literary devices in this context, the writers create realistic worlds that diverge from reality. In the same parallel, Tennyson performs a task where he makes everyday objects look fantastic. This involves realistic objects such as a necklace and a suit armor. The necklace serves as a tool that gives a voice to the tournament, and it is discovered to play a critical role in the poem. However, the necklace is later found with an infant eagle, suggesting that the reader is on an adventure in a fantasy world.
In Victorian fantasy, the writers create a voice in that they take the persona’s voice and different characters to tell stories. In regard to women’s questions, the writers engage in different debates to question women’s place in society (Egervary n.p). Even though there are opposing voices, everyone emphasizes the need for women to have greater economic, educational, and political opportunities in society. During the Victorian time, women properly belonged in the home as caretakers of the family. However, the Victorian writers came into place to represent women by acting as a voice to ensure balance and equality. Victorian England could flourish if men and women were treated equally because resources and opportunities were equally distributed. Although some of the works depict a fictional world, things were assumed to change with time to accommodate every aspect that was deemed important. Victorian literature critiqued the flaws and vindication of women’s rights, giving them a voice in society. The Victorian fantasy is a fiction turned into reality for the fact that it ensured that gender was accompanied with power by linking aspects of the Victorian culture to the complex and rigid rules of behavior, including Victorian attitudes such as marriage and sexuality.
Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and Browning’s Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came occur in enclosed worlds, demonstrating how the authors travel from Victorian England to Camelot. Although the worlds are defined in certain ways, they describe travel and how individuals’ voices in these worlds are echoed. The authors play an important role in a poem because all sorts of problems facing the people are told in a sequential way to solve the issues affecting the people (Egervary n.p). In relation to Victorian England during the early nineteenth century, it is clear that class is an issue. The Victorian era in Britain was marked by social classes, including upper class, middle class, and lower class. Those unfortunate are individuals in the lower class, for they have no voice in society. They have no representative in decision-making, and for this reason, any decision that is made affects them negatively. The fortunate are those in the upper class and those in the middle class. However, due to development and growth, the middle class experienced expansion due to cities and the economy. In this pyramid, some people were dropped to the underclass, and therefore, even though they were skilled, they lacked jobs for sustainability. The Victorian explored the concept of wealth and status. Those who had no wealth could not be valued in society; they had lower status. They experienced fear of insurrection, and it was difficult for them to secure social stability. This applied to Victorian writers, for they were ranked among the working class and therefore people who could not make decisions. However, through Victorian literature, they aired the voice of those disadvantaged individuals in society by highlighting common stereotypes and what happened.
The Issue of Authenticity in Victorian Fantasy
Authenticity encompasses being conscious of self, others, and relationships. In Victorian fantasy, the author demonstrates that the writers critique and support each other in developing hypotheses for Victorian literature. Although their works are featured using fairy tales, poems, and imaginations of other worlds, they ensure that the relationships between characters are smooth. Even animals correlate with each other paying attention to the relationships, the tone, mood, and the setting of the stories. For example, Mac-Donald ensures that everything seems like a scientific observation linking his stories to those in the goblin market and Wonderland (Egervary n.p). The settings work clearly like those in fiction, representing the idea of transition in most fantastic moments and internal rules that should be followed. The writers used representations of dialect indirect speech of characters to ensure where to employ direct speech and where to avoid it. All events were connected so that humans and animals correlate harmoniously as though the setting is in a different world not similar to the existing one. Everything is fantasy, but it looks fantastic when writing any common poem or literary text is written.
In the case of Britain Victorian, the writers chose to connect their fantasy as an accurate view of the subject, suggesting that they have a deep understanding of the problems affecting society. For instance, Carroll’s Alice books, especially Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, demonstrate that the writer understands the culture in the real world (Egervary n.p). The worlds of the books are normal yet slightly twisted to present events in fantasies. The use of these stories aids the writer’s social and artistic purpose by representing authentic speakers. The unfortunate or ‘others’ in Britain are designed to air out their grievances for equality and justice and to entertain the reader. The writer reminds the reader about the flaws of a disorganized society. All writers present the reader with external flaws and the major consequences even though everything is written in fiction to show that scenes in the stories are happening in a different world.
The writers present their work through fiction to inform the reader about realism. For instance, based on the issue of voice and identity, the upper class and the middle class are at an advantage and can vindicate the lower class, who are at all times inclined to poverty (Pickles 15). The writers urge the upper, middle, and lower classes to accommodate one another, for they have a symbiotic relationship. Each group will indeed need one another for society to progress. For instance, Victorian Britain comprises the upper and middle-class individuals who own the means of production and all valuable assets, but they at all times must need labor from the low-class individuals for their factories to work. The Victorian writers presented a pseudo-reality in which a united society could exist.
On such point of reference, it is clear that although some work of fiction is not real, there is some obvious work of realism like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (Egervary n.p). The story contains characters that cannot be met in real life, but they are organized so that they speak standard English, breathe air, and have legs like any normal human being. Nineteen-century Victorian literature abounds with realism covering fluently characters in pronunciation, grammar, and lexis. For example, based on the fact that white writers were considered to be better as compared to those of different origins illustrated that poems that were written in English were the creation of writers who were speakers of the local dialect. Critics from ‘other’ writers made a distinction by depicting that even though individuals did not originate from the local region, there was a possibility that everyone had the potential to ace a good poem or literary work. This approach could discover authenticity because its detailed analysis of dialect forms was used to discover whether literary dialect was considered to determine authenticity.
The earliest fantasy in England followed social and economic transformations. The radical changes reflect the authenticity highlighted by Victorian writers, although it draws inspiration from magical tales, epic poems, and myths (Besson n.p). The authenticity issue is well explored on the historical upheaval that was once the social and economic consequences that profoundly affected the mentalities and lifestyles of people. England experienced brutal industrialization in that the government enforced laws that did not favor people of different origins. All foreigners did not have similar rights and privileges as other citizens. In the stories, the writers have tried to criticize the flaws and propose what they think can be done to address the challenges (Pickles 21). Though the poems and stories encompass the supernatural and things beyond human reach, their imaginations seek to haven the enchanted world, enabling the birth of modern fantasy. The role of the literary devices was to represent reality to speculate imaginative genres in people’s minds. To present authenticity, realism had to be vented using industrial, rationalism, and urban development, choosing imaginary as the world to connect people to the world that can be observed. It was the only way that fantasy could spring.
Victorian literature was an important element of the search for people’s national origins, lifestyle, and culture. In relation to the issue of authenticity, the writers scripted stories and poems that particularly demonstrated the culture, lifestyle, and origin of Britain. For example, a group of artists led by Dante declared that their goal was to go back to a style from before the renaissance (Besson n.p). This means that everything done reflects on the history of England, showcasing the type of activities that were done and how people used to interact. History informs the transformation and development of a society; therefore, the works of the writers are not only fantasy-oriented but also to educate and inform the reader. Fantasy pioneers contributed to the genre’s development by producing major and ground-breaking literary texts.
In a nutshell, Victorian fantasy established major trends, particularly the influence of fairy tales and myths. The issues such as identity, voice, and authenticity in the literary texts are inspiration aspects from the ancient cultural traditions, particularly the creatures, characters, and worlds that impose strong thematic coherence on the definition of literary genres. Different writers have directed the reader to ancient society by highlighting major flaws during the industrial period and how transformation occurred. Even though the fairy tales seem to occur in a non-existent world, the reader can imagine and relate to the events that happened in the past. Victorian fantasy is more of realism rather than irrational events.
Besson, Anne. Victorian England: Birthplace of Fantasy. BnF. Fantasy.
Dessler, Ryan. The Use of the Bastard Identity: From VIctorian Subverters to Superheroes in the Twenty-first Century and Beyond. Diss. Florida Atlantic University, 2012.
Egervary, Alex. A Brief Discussion of Victorian Fantasy-Setting and Character. English 151, Brown University, 2003. https://victorianweb.org/genre/egervary12.html
Galchinsky, Michael. “Otherness and Identity in the Victorian novel.” (2002). https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=english_facpub
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