To be specified published in:Landscapes of Realism: Rethinking literary realism in comparative perspectives. Volume II: Pathways through realism
Edited by Svend Erik Larsen, Steen Bille Jørgensen and Margaret R. Higonnet
[Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages XXXIII] 2022
► pp. 365–384
Curating realism in a world of objects
Collecting in Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle
This case study explores how the collecting impulse fostered by the museum intersected in the role of realism in Victorian fiction. Following a brief exploration of how literature constructs the role of the museum, the chapter focuses on the work of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle to explore the concept of realism through the methods in which it ascribes a status to the objects that vitally litter Victorian novels. In focusing on the presence of pre-historic relics like fossils in Dickens and Doyle, it is argued that the motif of collecting in their works is indicative of this public fascination, which had been sparked by the formation of the museum as an institution. The second half of this chapter investigates the literary detective as a figure analogous to that of the museum curator. In examining the routines and processes of Sherlock Holmes, which include description, deduction, speculation and display, the detective is seen as a figure who emerged through the cultural pre-occupation of collecting. This case study thus opens a discussion of how the works of Dickens and Doyle represent the cultural milieu of collecting that was fostered by museums, and how this historical context is tied with the role of realism in contemporary literature.
- 1.Objects on display
- 2.Museums in Victorian poetry and prose
- 2.1The museum as temple and stronghold
- 2.2The museum as educator
- 2.3The museum as mausoleum
- 3.Collecting nature
- 3.2The end of romance
- 4.The detective as museum curator
- 5.Museums: Free association and deduction
Published online: 16 March 2022
Doyle, Arthur Conan
Gissing, Algernon and Ellen Gissing
James, Simon J.
Marshall, Nancy Rose
Pearce, Susan M.
Smith, Charles Saumarez
Weil, Stephen E.