Genres of Doubt

Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Victorian Crisis of Faith


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About the Book

Nineteenth-century Britain gave birth to the fantasy novel and the science fiction novel—two of today’s most popular genres. During the same period, the traditional Christian beliefs that had underpinned British society for centuries faced new challenges as geological discoveries, the writings of Charles Darwin and exposure to other cultures gave rise to a Victorian “crisis of faith.”
These two shifts—one literary, one cultural—were deeply intertwined. The novel, a literary form that was developed as a vehicle for realism, when infused with unreal elements offered a space to ponder questions about the supernatural, the difference between belief and knowledge, and humanity’s place in the world. The author explores how questions of meaning, identity and faith inspired the speculative fiction of today’s novels, films, television shows and comics.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth M. Sanders holds a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Iowa. She is a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction and lives in Ferguson, Missouri.

Bibliographic Details

Elizabeth M. Sanders
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 188
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6562-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2921-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction: The Secular and the Supernatural in Victorian Life and Fiction 3
1. The Problem with Creation: Narrating the Break with God 21
Frankenstein: The Lonely Fall 23
The Island of Dr. Moreau: The Animal and the Machine 41
2. Doubting Magic: Christian Fantasy During the Crisis 56
Phantastes: Doubt in the Hero 63
The ­Water-Babies: Doubt in the Reader 68
The Princess and the Goblin: Doubt in the Friend 75
Flatland: Doubt in the World 81
3. “Powers of their own”: Evil and Compromise in ­Late-Victorian Urban Fantasies 88
Humanity, Evil and Religion at the End of the Century 89
Intrusion and Compromise 94
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: “A profound duplicity” 101
Dracula: “Up-to-date with a vengeance” 108
4. Supernatural Longing: The Beginnings of Modern Fantasy 123
Lewis Carroll: Growing Out of Enchantment 126
William Morris: A Sealed Enchantment 135
Epilogue: ­Twenty-First-Century Enchantments 147
Chapter Notes 159
Bibliography 168
Index 175

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Finalist, Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies—Mythopoeic Society