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Plots on London: terrorism in turn-of-the-century British fiction


Frank, Michael C (2012). Plots on London: terrorism in turn-of-the-century British fiction. In: Frank, Michael C; Gruber, Eva. Literature and terrorism: comparative perspectives. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 41-65.

Abstract

This book chapter provides a contextual analysis of the first wave of terrorist fiction in British literature, focusing in particular on Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Dynamiter" (1885) and E. Douglass Fawcett's "Hartmann the Anarchist" (1893). Considering both books against the background of contemporary forms of terrorism, the chapter argues that the so-called "dynamite novels" of the late nineteenth century adapted the conventions of Gothic terror to the new phenomenon of “terrorist terror” by complementing or substituting them with new motifs: the late-Victorian metropolis of London, anarchist conspiracies, dynamite explosions, and the contradictory images of inept would-be-terrorists who accidentally blow themselves to pieces and futuristic scenarios of a London laid waste by modern weaponry. My main hypothesis is that such novels give insight into the “cultural imaginary” of terrorism, which may be defined as the period-specific repertoire of images and stories pertaining to terrorism in both its actual and its potential forms. Intermingling the available historical knowledge with fantastic speculation, this imaginary is shaped not only by the respective period’s public discourse on terrorism (the often hyperbolic pronouncements of politicians, the media, as well as the terrorist groups themselves) but also by the literary traditions that lend themselves to the narrativization of terror.

Abstract

This book chapter provides a contextual analysis of the first wave of terrorist fiction in British literature, focusing in particular on Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Dynamiter" (1885) and E. Douglass Fawcett's "Hartmann the Anarchist" (1893). Considering both books against the background of contemporary forms of terrorism, the chapter argues that the so-called "dynamite novels" of the late nineteenth century adapted the conventions of Gothic terror to the new phenomenon of “terrorist terror” by complementing or substituting them with new motifs: the late-Victorian metropolis of London, anarchist conspiracies, dynamite explosions, and the contradictory images of inept would-be-terrorists who accidentally blow themselves to pieces and futuristic scenarios of a London laid waste by modern weaponry. My main hypothesis is that such novels give insight into the “cultural imaginary” of terrorism, which may be defined as the period-specific repertoire of images and stories pertaining to terrorism in both its actual and its potential forms. Intermingling the available historical knowledge with fantastic speculation, this imaginary is shaped not only by the respective period’s public discourse on terrorism (the often hyperbolic pronouncements of politicians, the media, as well as the terrorist groups themselves) but also by the literary traditions that lend themselves to the narrativization of terror.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:1 January 2012
Deposited On:25 Apr 2019 11:40
Last Modified:10 May 2019 15:11
Publisher:Rodopi
Series Name:Textxet: Studies in Comparative Literature
Number:66
ISSN:0927-5754
ISBN:978-94-012-0773-7
OA Status:Green
Official URL:https://brill.com/abstract/book/edcoll/9789401207737/B9789401207737-s004.xml
Related URLs:https://brill.com/view/title/31018?lang=en (Publisher)
https://www.recherche-portal.ch/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ebi01_prod007555743&context=L&vid=ZAD&search_scope=default_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=de_DE (Library Catalogue)

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