If Possession asserts the ‘truth of the imagination’, then Affinity (1999) and Fingersmith (2002) harness this truth to invent a genealogy of lesbian desire that exists only as shadows at the margins of Victorian literature and history. In contrast to Waterland and Possession, each of which constructs a contemporary frame for its representation of the Victorian period, Affinity and Fingersmith are examples of faux-Victorian fiction; novels written in the Victorian tradition that refuse to self-reflexively mark their difference from it in the characteristically parodic mode of historiographic metafiction. These novels revive Victorian novel-istic traditions, offering themselves as stylistic imitations of Victorian fiction. Yet what they imitate they also re-imagine and extend: What would the Victorian novel have looked like had it represented other voices? By depicting female homosexuality in the Victorian period, Waters ‘puts the weight of historical precedent behind lesbian existence’ (Kohlke, 2004: 65). However she uses the mnemonic power of literature to do it.
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A forgotten past is encountered again in fantastic literature. The recounting of that past heals an occluded memory.
(Renate Lachmann ‘Cultural Memory and the Role of Literature’, 2004)
The spirit-medium’s proper home is neither this world nor the next, but that vague and debatable land which lies between them.
(Sarah Waters, Affinity, 1999)
© 2010 Kate Mitchell
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Mitchell, K. (2010). ‘Making it seem like it’s authentic’: the Faux-Victorian Novel as Cultural Memory in Affinity and Fingersmith . In: History and Cultural Memory in Neo-Victorian Fiction. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230283121_6
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London
Print ISBN: 978-1-349-31016-6
Online ISBN: 978-0-230-28312-1