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The Victorian Geopolitical AestheticRealism, Sovereignty, and Transnational Experience$
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Lauren M. E. Goodlad

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198728276

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198728276.001.0001

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“Dark, Like Me”

“Dark, Like Me”

Archeology and Erfahrung in Wilkie Collins’s Armadale and The Moonstone

(p.110) 5 “Dark, Like Me”
The Victorian Geopolitical Aesthetic

Lauren M. E. Goodlad

Oxford University Press

The form and tone of Wilkie Collins’s fiction are strikingly different from Trollope’s. Instead of naturalism, the perception of breached heirloom sovereignty gives rise to multi-perspectival narration, elaborate plotting, and outlandish events that conduce toward an almost postmodern notion of sovereignty as porous and pluralized. Collins’s mixed-raced characters migrate to the foreground where their unconventional stories stimulate the rendering of that historically cumulative form of experience which Walter Benjamin called Erfahrung. Armadale, a novel begun midway through the US Civil War, uses fictive archeology to explore the disavowed history of Britain’s participation in Atlantic slavery, while The Moonstone, often read as a “mutiny” narrative, traces a multi-authored path to truth. Whereas Ozias Midwinter’s story excavates a submerged Atlantic experience, Ezra Jennings, a character whose crucial piebald knowledge “is entirely out of the experience of the mass of mankind” (388), enables a formal shift from detective narrative to utopian romance.

Keywords:   Wilkie Collins, sensation novel, geopolitical aesthetic, Walter Benjamin, transnational experience, sovereignty, The Moonstone, Koh-i-Noor, Armadale, black Atlantic

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