Bigamy in Victorian novels

bigamyFrom sensational plots to “simultaneous” remarriages in such classic literature as Jane Eyre, David Copperfield and Middlemarch, bigamy in Victorian novels is a surprisingly prevalent narrative phenomenonIn the first extended study on this topic, a new book by Assistant Professor of English Maia McAleavey — The Bigamy Plot: Sensation and Convention in the Victorian Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2015) fills a key gap in the history of the Victorian novel and revises the view that links its narrative structure to courtship and marriage, which have dominated accounts of these works. Familiar conventions are upended in this innovative study which explores authors’ use of bigamy plots to undermine conventional forms and values. In hundreds of novels, plays and poems published in Victorian Great Britain, spouses thought dead reappear to their newly remarried husbands or wives. McAleavey, a specialist in the Victorian novel, nineteenth-century British literature and culture, narrative analysis, gender theory, and generic distinctions and conventions, makes the case for a historical approach to narrative which is grounded in the legal and social changes of the period, but counters cultural expectations. The book includes an index of nearly 300 novels featuring bigamy plots. McAleavey’s work has been published in Representations, Victorian Studies, the Dickens Studies Annual and Victorian Review.

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