Synopses & Reviews
This is a thought-provoking synthesis of the Victorian period, focusing on the themes of science, religion, politics and art. It examines the developments which radically changed the intellectual climate and illustrates how their manifestations permeated Victorian literature.
The author begins by establishing the social and institutional framework in which intellectual and cultural life developed. Special attention is paid to the reform agenda of new groups which challenged traditional society, and this perspective informs Gilmour's discussion throughout the book. He assesses Victorian religion, science and politics in their own terms and in relation to the larger cultural politics of the middle-class challenge to traditionalism. Familiar topics, such as the Oxford Movement and Darwinism, are seen afresh, and those once neglected areas which are now increasingly important to modern scholars are brought into clear focus, such as Victorian agnosticism, the politics of gender, 'Englishness', and photography. The most innovative feature of this compelling study is the prominence given to the contemporary preoccupation with time. The Victorians' time-hauntedness emerges as the defining feature of their civilisation - the remote time of geology and evolution, the public time of history, the private time of autobiography.