While much has been written about Sgt. Pepper's celebration of high Victorian culture, little scholarship, if any, has focused on the White Album's relationship to the late Victorian period. This paper examines The Beatles through the lens of what Victorian studies scholar Stephen Arata has called “fictions of loss,” a body of fin de siècle texts depicting intertwined processes of “national, biological, [and] aesthetic” decline. I argue that the White Album can be read alongside Dracula and She as a “fiction of loss,” revealing the degree to which a sense of “irretrievable decline” returned to haunt Britain in the late Sixties. Indeed, decline and fall comprise one of The Beatles's major concerns, not only because the album documents the band's nascent breakup, but also because it finds the band addressing (and often satirizing) a constellation of fin de siècle themes, newly relevant at midcentury: fears of reverse colonization (“Back In The USSR”); half-ironic fascination with colonial adventurism and “Eastern” enlightenment as correctives to decline (“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,” “Dear Prudence”); Decadent critiques of over-interpretation (“Glass Onion”); nightmares/fantasies of apocalyptic destruction (“Helter Skelter,” “Revolution 9”), and representations of animal bodies (“Piggies,” “Yer Blues”). If Sgt. Pepper consciously invoked Victorian nostalgia, the White Album evokes fin de siècle motifs unconsciously, responding to their resurgence in the Beatles' time.

You do not currently have access to this content.