“This book has obvious value for studies in imperialism, but because it looks at melodrama beyond plays, including novels, romances, poems, short stories, and journalism, it also has much to add to the conversation about melodrama as a Victorian mode.”
The Year’s Work in English Studies
“Neil Hultgren has produced a persuasive and accessible text focusing on two significant leitmotifs. First, he widens our understanding of the range of melodramatic writing, both temporally and spatially, by arguing for its broader literary and historical significance. Second, he focuses on melodrama’s relationship with British imperial writing of the late nineteenth century in a bid to resurrect it from its reputation as merely a conveyor of violent and jingoistic propaganda. Emphasizing three common themes in the melodramatic mode…and by moving beyond the early stage to include novels, short stories, and poems, he makes a persuasive case for its diversity and significance.”
Modern Language Review
“Hultgren’s documentation of the grafting of an antiquated stage-acting method onto disorienting historical events to produce enduring narratives of imperialism and colonialism will inform and captivate scholars of Victorian literature and world history.”
“Innovative and thoughtfully formulated … The study is divided into sections de- fined by particular modal factors that helped make ‘the British Empire understandable’—its plotting, its emotionality, and its notion of community. Hultgren has selected these three elements not for their influence, but because their textual manifestations provide particularly insightful examples of the ways in which Victorians imagined their imperialist activities through and as melodrama.”
English Literature in Translation
Melodrama is often seen as a blunt aesthetic tool tainted by its reliance on improbable situations, moral binaries, and overwhelming emotion, features that made it a likely ingredient of British imperial propaganda during the late nineteenth century. Yet, through its impact on many late-Victorian genres outside of the theater, melodrama developed a complicated relationship with British imperial discourse.
Melodramatic Imperial Writing positions melodrama as a vital aspect of works that underscored the contradictions and injustices of British imperialism. Beyond proving useful for authors constructing imperialist fantasies or supporting unjust policies, the melodramatic mode enabled writers to upset narratives of British imperial destiny and racial superiority.
Neil Hultgren explores a range of texts, from Dickens’s writing about the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion to W. E. Henley’s imperialist poetry and Olive Schreiner’s experimental fiction, in order to trace a new and complex history of British imperialism and the melodramatic mode in late-Victorian writing.
Neil Hultgren is an associate professor of English at California State University, Long Beach, where he teaches courses in British literature and Victorian studies. He has written on Wilkie Collins, H. Rider Haggard, and Oscar Wilde, and his articles have appeared in such venues as Literature Compass and Victorians Institute Journal. More info →
Save 20% ($26.36)
Save 20% ($64)
Availability and price vary according to vendor.
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
Click or tap on a subject heading to sign up to be notified when new related books come out.
Retail price: $32.95, S.
Release date: September 2023
256 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Retail price: $80.00, S.
Release date: March 2014
256 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Release date: March 2014
“Written with clarity and force, Melodramatic Imperial Writing recuperates the complex representational strategies of the melodramatic mode and convincingly shows how these strategies were deployed in a range of literary works to imagine the consequences and moral contours of the British Empire.”
Literature and History
“Captivating and illuminating, Hultgren’s discussion of the impact of the Sepoy Rebellion on British consciousness and on writers such as Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins is particularly worthwhile. And those who deprive themselves of Hultgren's observations about Marie Corelli (one of Victoria's favorites)—whose Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self (‘a Christian dream vision in a pre-Babylonian civilization’) opposes Kipling‘s depiction of the ‘harsh material realities of the British Empire’—will miss an informative, comprehensive, and invigorating account indeed.”
“Neil Hultgren calls our attention to a conjunction that is, paradoxically, at once familiar and unnoticed: the conjunction of melodrama and representations of empire in the Victorian period. While much recent work has looked at the proliferation of imperial fiction over the last half of the nineteenth century, none has revealed what Melodramatic Imperial Writing shows us so clearly—that such fictions draw their energy and effectiveness from the conventions of melodrama. More than that: they owe much of their complexity as well as their continuing relevance for later readers to this same source.”
Stephen Arata, University of Virginia, author of Fictions of Loss in the Victorian Fin de Siècle
X Marks the Spot
Women Writers Map the Empire for British Children, 1790–1895
By Megan A. Norcia
During the nineteenth century, geography primers shaped the worldviews of Britain’s ruling classes and laid the foundation for an increasingly globalized world. Written by middle-class women who mapped the world that they had neither funds nor freedom to traverse, the primers employed rhetorical tropes such as the Family of Man or discussions of food and customs in order to plot other cultures along an imperial hierarchy.Cross-disciplinary
Literary Criticism | Children's & Young Adult · Literary Criticism | European | English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh · United Kingdom · Literature · Victorian Studies
A Room of His Own
A Literary-Cultural Study of Victorian Clubland
By Barbara Black
In nineteenth-century London, a clubbable man was a fortunate man, indeed. The Reform, the Athenaeum, the Travellers, the Carlton, the United Service are just a few of the gentlemen’s clubs that formed the exclusive preserve known as “clubland” in Victorian London—the City of Clubs that arose during the Golden Age of Clubs. Why were these associations for men only such a powerful emergent institution in nineteenth-century London?
Literary Criticism | European | English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh · British History · Gender Studies · Victorian Studies
Cashmere and Paisley Shawls in British Literature and Culture
By Suchitra Choudhury
Considering popular literary images of Indian and Paisley shawls as markers of fashion, class, gender, and race during the long nineteenth century, this book shows how Indian imports and influences shaped wider discussions of British literature, art, politics, and empire.
Literary Criticism | European | English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh · Design | Fashion & Accessories · Victorian Studies · History | Europe | Great Britain | Victorian Era · Scotland · England · India
Sign up to be notified when new Victorian Studies titles come out.
We will only use your email address to notify you of new titles in the subject area(s) you follow. We will never share your information with third parties.