Abstract

As we commemorate the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Charles Dickens's death, this article considers Dickens's afterlife in neo-Victorian narratives of the new millennium, surveying texts that resurrect and reconstruct Dickens as a fictional character. Substantiating Marie-Luise Kohlke's and Christian Gutleben's assertion that “neo-Victorianism is by nature quintessentially Gothic” (4; author's emphasis), the narratives in this survey Gothicize the author, portraying him as a ghost, a ghost-buster, or a metaphorically haunting presence who conjures Victorian-era anxieties that have contemporary relevance. Commercial franchises capitalizing on Dickens for heritage nostalgia (e.g., the Assassin's Creed video games) playfully portray him as a ghost-buster who exorcises troubling spirits, while bio-fictions depicting Dickens's fraught relationships with women (e.g., The Invisible Woman) resurrect Dickens as a stalking presence in women's lives before and after his death. Neo-Victorian novels concerned with Dickens's creative and commercial legacies (e.g., Dan Simmons's Drood) concoct murder mysteries featuring Dickens the mesmerist, whose insidious power over fans, critics, and fellow authors raises troubling questions about celebrity culture and the arts. Similarly, postcolonial narratives (e.g., the television series, The Terror) often conjure Dickens as a specter of imperialism's traumatic legacy. Such neo-Victorian resurrections illustrate how Dickens perpetually haunts the intersection of Victorian and contemporary worlds.

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