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Artful ExperimentsWays of Knowing in Victorian Literature and Science$
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Philipp Erchinger

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474438957

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474438957.001.0001

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The Making of Sensation Fiction

The Making of Sensation Fiction

(p.216) Chapter 8 The Making of Sensation Fiction
Artful Experiments

Philipp Erchinger

Edinburgh University Press

The argument of this chapter is that the writing of sensation fiction was itself part of the critical endeavour to make sense of the enormous excitement that it produced. There is, in other words, a tendency towards self-investigation and self-reflection inherent in the sensational imagination. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret and Aurora Floyd, for instance, seem to read and review, repeatedly, the very art that constitutes them. In accordance with Braddon’s letters to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, these novels, being engaged in a quest for their own meaning and social function, are uncertain about the very sensational effects that they helped to create. Likewise, the stories of Wilkie Collins’s Armadale and The Moonstone contain within themselves various models of the creative activity through which they were assembled and made into their characteristically suspended, drawn-out shape. By means of such models, the chapter argues, Collins’s writing makes itself legible, between the lines, as an experimental practice that composes its form as it goes along, rather than on the basis of a predefined plan.

Keywords:   sensation fiction, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins, experimentation, self-investigation, sensation, detection, composition, emergent form

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