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dc.contributor.advisorLogan, Peter Melville, 1951-
dc.creatorSeltzer, Beth
dc.date.accessioned2020-11-05T15:01:55Z
dc.date.available2020-11-05T15:01:55Z
dc.date.issued2015
dc.identifier.other958157475
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/3546
dc.description.abstractThis dissertation argues that mid-Victorian detective fiction critiques concurrent shifts in Victorian information culture. Detectives in fiction check alibis, investigate clues, and perform acts of detection and ratiocination which link their labor to social procedures of information management. We can read the genre as a response to drastic mid-Victorian changes in the perception of “information.” Specifically, I argue that detective fiction of the 1860s and 70s demonstrates skepticism of the developing mid-Victorian concept of abstract information. Abstract information is content detached from context, supposedly able to exist free from space, materiality, or necessary connection to human meaning. Mid-Victorian detective fiction challenges that perception. Recovering how mid-Victorian detective fiction embodies social ambivalence towards changing perceptions of information helps us avoid writing a fallacious developmental narrative onto the genre. Detective fiction of the early twentieth century imagines a split between the “rational” and “sensational” material in the genre. The procedures of information management within the novel—gathering and ordering clues, collecting evidence, making deductions—are usually considered “rational” parts of the genre. Reading mid-Victorian novels within this framework, we are apt to see the mid-Victorian detective’s acts of information management as being inherently “rational.” When re-examined through the lens of contemporary information culture, however, we see that information management actually serves in these novels and stories as an indicator of the “sensational.” Rather than tending to advance towards order, as we might expect, mid-Victorian fictions evoke the procedures of information to evoke uncanny feelings and undermine the apparent conclusions of their detectives. We read a novel or short story from the 1860s and see the use of factual information, such as Robert Audley manipulating a railway timetable or Sergeant Cuff carefully collecting testimony. We tend to think of their endeavors as rational, prototypical examples of detective reasoning. But in making that assumption, we overlook how problematic information was in mid-Victorian society and how self-conscious contemporaries were of its limits and contradictions. What we overlook, in short, is the possibility that “information” in mid-Victorian detective fiction serves as another indicator of the “sensational.” To misread the use of information in mid-Victorian detective fiction is to risk misunderstanding Victorian information culture, as well as the text’s adoption and adaptation of other informational forms. While all of the texts I examine exhibit skepticism of the perception of abstract information, this dissertation also traces a development in the texts’ attitudes towards information in the 1860s and beyond. Abstract information, each fiction suggests, is not a perfectly accurate concept, but in the later texts I consider, this becomes less of a problem. For Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), abstract information is a deeply problematic idea, and the text sets a trap for us into which we might fall if we fail to understand the alienated nature of such information. Bracebridge Hemyng’s Telegraph Secrets (1867) challenges the idea of that information can be disembodied from material contexts, but the novel’s attempt to critique it backfires and creates aesthetic oddities in the text. Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868), a transitional novel, shows the idea of decontextualized abstract information breaking down, but this is not problematic. Instead, the novel begins to exploit the possibilities offered by an information age which can imagine information freely acquiring new meaning in different contexts. Finally, the many critics of Charles Dickens’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870) actively celebrate the aesthetic possibilities offered by the idea of abstract information, creating a proliferating collection of new creative work out of the gap left in the original text.
dc.format.extent253 pages
dc.language.isoeng
dc.publisherTemple University. Libraries
dc.relation.ispartofTheses and Dissertations
dc.rightsIN COPYRIGHT- This Rights Statement can be used for an Item that is in copyright. Using this statement implies that the organization making this Item available has determined that the Item is in copyright and either is the rights-holder, has obtained permission from the rights-holder(s) to make their Work(s) available, or makes the Item available under an exception or limitation to copyright (including Fair Use) that entitles it to make the Item available.
dc.rights.urihttp://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
dc.subjectBritish and Irish Literature
dc.subjectDetective Fiction
dc.subjectInformation
dc.subjectVictorian
dc.titleNot Just the Facts: Victorian Detective Fiction's Critique of Information
dc.typeText
dc.type.genreThesis/Dissertation
dc.contributor.committeememberJoshi, Priya
dc.contributor.committeememberGjesdal, Kristin
dc.contributor.committeememberBuurma, Rachel Sagner
dc.contributor.committeememberMenke, Richard
dc.description.departmentEnglish
dc.relation.doihttp://dx.doi.org/10.34944/dspace/3528
dc.ada.noteFor Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation, including help with reading this content, please contact scholarshare@temple.edu
dc.description.degreePh.D.
refterms.dateFOA2020-11-05T15:01:55Z


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