Fairy-Tale Literature of Charles Dickens, Christina Rossetti, and George Macdonald. Antidotes to the Victorian Spiritual Crisis

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Despite growing scholarly recognition of subversive social and political content in Victorian fairy tales, their significance in relation to the oft-cited Victorian “spiritual crisis” remains largely unexplored. This interdisciplinary study addresses the critical gap by examining three literary revisions of Sleeping Beauty from the early 1860s as pointed efforts to enter the intensified religious debate following the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species. This book contains two color photographs.


“Manson contends that each writer was responding to the crisis of faith that swirled around Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species in the 1860s. However, the fairy tale was never enlisted to support religion’s claims over science’s, or vice versa, she adds. None of these authors resolved the tension between opposing conceptions of reality by endorsing a Biblical perspective or the scientific alternative. Instead, they rose above the fray, taking Sleeping Beauty to task as the embodiment of the Victorian era’s complacent materialism. . . . . Mason’s study deserves praise for helping to explain the Victorians’ fascination with fairy tales and for shedding new light on fairy tales per se. Linking the Sleeping Beauty story to a major intellectual upheaval of the 1860s allows Manson to divulge the hitherto undetected common purpose in three previously unconnected texts.” - Jerome Meckier, Department of English, University of Kentucky

“Drawing on theories of psychoanalysis and cultural studies, this excellent book will change how we think about the symbolic significance that Sleeping Beauty held for Victorians . . .” - Sharon Aronofsky Weltman, Associate Chair of English, Louisiana State University

Table of Contents

1. Fairy Tales and the Victorian Spiritual Crisis
2. Charles Dickens: Shattering the Iconic: Sleeping Beauty in Great Expectations
3. Christina Rossetti: Revitalizing the Christ Story in “Goblin Market”
4. George MacDonald: Narcissism in FairyLand, or “The Light Princess” in Us All

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