In Victorian Reformations: Historical Fiction and Religious Controversy, 1820-1900, Miriam Elizabeth Burstein analyzes the ways in which Christian novelists across the denominational spectrum laid claim to popular genresmost importantly, the religious historical novelto narrate the aftershocks of 1829, the year of Catholic Emancipation. Both Protestant and Catholic popular novelists fought over the ramifications of nineteenth-century Catholic toleration for the legacy of the Reformation. But despite the vast textual range of this genre, it remains virtually unknown in literary studies. Victorian Reformations is the first book to analyze how high” theological and historical debates over the Reformation’s significance were popularized through the increasingly profitable venue of Victorian religious fiction. By putting religious apologists and controversialists at center stage, Burstein insists that such fictionfrequently dismissed as overly simplistic or didacticis essential for our understanding of Victorian popular theology, history, and historical novels.
Burstein reads lost” but once exceptionally popular religious novelsfor example, by Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Lady Georgiana Fullerton, and Emily Sarah Holtagainst the works of such now-canonical figures as Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot, while also drawing on material from contemporary sermons, histories, and periodicals. Burstein demonstrates how these novels, which popularized Christian visions of change for a mass readership, call into question our assumptions about the nineteenth-century historical novel. In addition, her research and her conceptual frameworks have the potential to influence broader paradigms in Victorian studies and novel criticism.
"In Victorian Reformations, Miriam Elizabeth Burstein persuasively shows how non-canonical Victorian historical novels offer essential insights into the shaping and importance of Victorian religious debates. Informative and well-argued, her book is a significant work for those who are interested in Victorian literature and Victorian religion, as well as the intersection of the two." Carol Engelhardt Herringer, Wright State University
"Miriam Burstein examines how the Victorians began to reenvision the Protestant Reformation in an effort to confront and combat their own religious anxieties about sectarianism and secularization. She raises the very broad issues of how to write 'historical fiction,' exactly what it is, and what theoretical concerns emerge when one tries to capture the past from a distant vantage point. Most impressive to me is the way that 'theory' is brought into the discussion, but does not overwhelm the close analysis of more than three dozen literary texts." Diane Long Hoeveler, author of Gothic Riffs: Secularizing the Uncanny in the European Imaginary, 1780-1820
"Victorian Reformations sheds fresh light on the significance of religion in historical nineteenth-century fiction. The argument is subtle but strong, buttressed by meticulous scholarship and conveyed in vigorous prose that keeps the reader focused and stimulated throughout. This readable and independent-minded study will be a boon to research on the nineteenth century, not only in the field of literature but also in those of history and religious studies." Marianne Thormählen, Lund University