Memorialisation and Posthumous Curation: The Displacing of the Victorian Voice, Corpse and Corpus in an Evolving Heritage Sector

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Holloway University of London
Department Name: English


This interdisciplinary thesis investigates the posthumous editing of Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and George Eliot through the intertextual approach of reading memorials and monuments to the authors as texts themselves. Monuments, and indeed the term 'memorialise' itself, contains a formal history of how such figures have been preserved: why was Oscar Wilde's stone counterpart created in the form of a Sphinx? Why were Dickens's wishes for a private burial disregarded? Why was George Eliot placed, not in Westminster's Poet's corner as desired, but rather in a section of a cemetery designated for outcasts? The thesis aims to harness these past decisions and explore the current active processes of authorial memorialisation, considering the anonymous alteration imposed on these physical sites of homage since their erection alongside the editing of publications by these authors in a digital audio age. The thesis will explore three inter-related processes of textual editing and authorial canonization, leading to the following research questions:
To what extent is it possible to read physical monuments and memorials as texts?
What new light can this examination of material authorial memorials shed on the editing of the textual corpus in the construction of posthumous reputation?
How is this materialized legacy of the tangible forms of memorials and multivolume collected works changing with the current shift to accessing the authors' works through digital and audio media?
The thesis will build on recent critical scholarship on author heritage in which the proposed supervisors, John and Livesey, have taken an important role. The research will explore the role of these authors play in forging their own brand of memorialization and how changing publics have remembered and curate those memories. The innovative focus of this thesis is on the author's body and its displacement through memorialisation alongside the displacement of authorial voice in audiobooks. While the audio-book might seem to diminish the physical encounter with the author, the changing heritage sector emphasis on experience provides new ways to understand the sacralisation and de-sacrilisation of canonical authors. All of these questions will be mapped over all three tiers of editing: physical monuments, textual monuments and audiobooks.


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