The Secret Sharer: The Child in Neo-Victorian Fiction Academic Article uri icon


  • In their introduction to Neo-Victorian Families, Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben observe that the families to be found in contemporary neo-Victorian fictions operate as ready-made cultural critiques of both past and present (Kohlke and Gutleben 2011: 10). But the utility of the neoVictorian family extends well beyond the exploration and rejection of what was wrong with Victorian society. More provocatively, the families in neoVictorian fiction permit a fantasy of belonging to a moment not the readers own, manifesting a desire to insinuate a contemporary self into the very phenomenon that Western liberal discourse now recognises as often dysfunctional, horrifying, or cruel. The endless rehearsal of characters such as the abused or abandoned child or woman, the victim of the workhouse or the orphanage, or the despised prostitute represents both disavowal of and longing for a moment that seems perversely impossible either to reject or to forget. The modernists hoped to disguise their literary debts to the Victorians (Clayton 2012: 713); in contrast, contemporary novelists working in the neo-Victorian vein unashamedly rehearse and amplify their debts to the Victorians, whether literary or psychological, in novel after novel. It is not enough that well into the twenty-first century we find that we cannot abandon the novel, the literary form that Victorians made so completely their own for their ideological explorations and accommodations (Wagner 2009: 745); whether moved by nostalgia, a desire to revisit ancient trauma, a wish to assert connections to cultural roots, or other impulses, authors and readers of neo-Victorian literature must also return to or multiply the characters, locations, plot types, settings, and language of the nineteenth century.

published proceedings

  • Neo-Victorian Studies

author list (cited authors)

  • Morey, A. M., & Nelson, C.

complete list of authors

  • Morey, AM||Nelson, C

publication date

  • 2012