New Issue of European Journal of English Studies (Vol. 26, 2022) “Victorian Materialisms: Approaching Nineteenth-Century Matter” by Ariane de Waal & Ursula Kluwick
In this introduction to the special issue Victorian Materialisms, the authors review the material turn in cultural and literary studies, foregrounding the necessity of more historical nuance. While new materialist accounts tend to stress the post-Enlightenment persistence of dualistic oppositions between nature and culture, humans and nonhumans, body and mind, the editors of this special issue argue that Victorian conceptions of matter reveal a wide range of materialisms that anticipate current new materialist interventions. Closer attention to nineteenth-century cultural, literary, philosophical, and scientific approaches to matter, the authors submit, uncovers not just anxiety about boundary breaches, but a widespread interest in material agency and the entanglement of animal, chemical, human, plant, and inorganic matter. The introduction suggests that a broader enquiry into Victorian materialisms beyond canonical figures and texts helps recuperate the pervasiveness and mundaneness of Victorian engagements with matter and material agency.