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Victorian Apocalypse: The siècle at its fin, Conference 2: Nightmares and Resurrections: The Temporalities and Endings of the fin de siècle
Literary critics, historians, and art historians have long noted the distinctiveness of the Victorian fin de siècle as a period of self-conscious conclusions, in which an aging monarch, a fragile empire, and wistful literary attempts to gauge progress or decline over the course of the nineteenth century culminated in a sense of loss and anxiety. The narrator of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1899) ends his story by emphasizing death or artificial life, as he imagines that the “busy multitudes” of London are no more than “phantasms in a dead city, the mockery of life in a galvanised body” after the Martian attack. Yet the last years of the nineteenth century are not only distinctive because of their historical singularities or even their doomsday zeitgeist. In part, scholarship on the fin de siècle has thrived in light of fears and anxieties about the late twentieth century, with the 1890s receiving attention because of potential parallels with the 1990s. Scholars of fin-de-siècle writing have since the 1990s, however, attempted to imagine an approach between historicism and presentism, or what Sally Ledger and Scott McCracken described in 1995 as “a sophisticated historical criticism which is capable of standing back not only from the period but also from our own time, and then examining the dialectical relationship between the two.”
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