Faded Ink: The Material Trace of Handwriting in Neo-Victorian Fiction

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    Neo-Victorian novelists reimagine handwritten documents to feed
    contemporary nostalgia for the materiality of handwriting. Handwriting
    signifies the personal and the private in ways that seem threatened in a
    digital age. Writers like Andrea Barrett, A. S. Byatt, and Peter Carey map
    material pathways to the nineteenth century with fictional characters who
    strive to possess the written past. Archival fantasies are simulated by
    novelists depicting writing processes and subsequent discovery and
    rereading of the handwritten trace by later generations. Imagined
    scenes of reading and writing describe tactile traces of handwriting that
    stage possession of the Victorian body in fragmented and partially
    recoverable states. Resurrection of the desired Victorian body through a
    metonymical relationship of hand/handwriting evokes a sense of a
    partial past recovered and experienced. Part of the aestheticism of the
    past relies on the aura of documents worn to a trace to evidence time and
    decay. Discovering the handwritten trace in this way becomes a sensory
    experience for readers and descriptions of decayed materiality
    emphasise survival for imagined fragments. Contemporary writing thus
    reveals a dual purpose to aestheticise the material past whilst
    demonstrating a postmodern drive to refute closure and ultimately
    celebrate the indeterminate facets of the handwritten trace.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)242-258
    Number of pages16
    Issue number3
    Early online date2 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


    • handwriting
    • digital age
    • nostalgia
    • materiality
    • neo-Victorian
    • Handwriting
    • Neo-Victorian
    • Materiality
    • Nostalgia
    • Digital age


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