The Miniature and Victorian Literature
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CitationForsberg, Laura. 2015. The Miniature and Victorian Literature. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe Victorian period is famously characterized by its massiveness, with the vast extent of the British Empire, the enormous size of the nineteenth-century city and the massive scale of the three-volume novel. Yet the Victorians were fascinated with miniature objects, which seemed in their small scale to belong to another world. Each miniature object prompted a unique imaginative fantasy of intimacy (the miniature painting), control (the toy), wonder (the microscope and the fairy) or knowledge (the miniature book). In each case, the miniature posited the possibility of reality with a difference, posing the implicit question: What if? This dissertation traces the miniature across a range of disciplines, from aesthetics and art history to science and technology, and from children’s culture to book history. In so doing, it shows how the miniature points beyond the limits of scientific knowledge and technical capabilities to the outer limits of the visual and speculative imagination. In novels, the miniature introduces elements of fantasy into the framework of realism, puncturing the fabric of the narrative with the internal reveries and longings of often-silent women and children. Miniature objects thus function less as realist details than as challenges to realism. In charting the effect of the miniature, both as a portal into the Victorian imagination and as a challenge to narrative realism, this dissertation puts the techniques of material history to new use. It aims not to describe the world of the Victorians but to show how the Victorians imagined other worlds.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:23845467
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