Framing anxieties: The figure of the editor in Collins, Haggard and Stoker

Leah Richards, Fordham University


In their major works, Wilkie Collins, H. Rider Haggard and Bram Stoker each create an editorial figure who ostensibly operates outside the multiple-voiced narratives that tell the novels' stories; in my dissertation, I argue that the function of this figure is to contain specific anxieties generated by the text itself, anxieties about the transmission of information, narrative reliability, believability, and claims to truth. I maintain that this preoccupation is characteristic of the Gothic novel, but is enacted in these texts in a way that is a feature of the period as much as of the genre. Gothic novels frequently indulge in elaborate statements of truth, and I explore the means by which such texts establish an authority—one that may be inherent to realist fiction—to manage not only the anxieties that appear in many Victorian texts but also these genre-specific concerns about information. My readings of these and similarly structured texts have broader applications both to the history of the novel and to studies of the Gothic and its subgenres, within and beyond the Victorian period; I demonstrate that the figure of the editor is more than a narrative device in that he and the frame in which he functions are themselves manifestations of unique cultural anxieties. The novels that I consider explore different kinds of information, all products of the later Victorian period. Collins' The Woman in White and The Moonstone both present collections of testimony gathered to illuminate a crime, but from distinct directions and with different emphasis: while The Woman in White is interested primarily in documented identity, The Moonstone explores the value and significance of evidence itself Examining evidence of a different kind, Haggard's She is riddled with visual information presented as extratextual; the novel enacts scholarly and popular debates about the status of evidence pertaining to the origins of civilization and the superiority of the conquering races. In Stoker's Dracula, the dissemination of information can be likened to that of a contemporary newspaper, and this structure allows the narrative to explore traditional Victorian concerns, reflected in the news of the day, as well as those about recording, reproducing, circulating, and receiving timely and reliable information.

Subject Area

Modern literature|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Richards, Leah, "Framing anxieties: The figure of the editor in Collins, Haggard and Stoker" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3377053.