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Scholarcast 22: Sensation and Modernity in the 1860's

Nicholas Daly


In this episode Nicholas Daly reads from the Introduction to his book Sensation and Modernity in the 1860's published by Cambridge University Press. This is a study of high and low culture in the years before the Reform Act of 1867, which vastly increased the number of voters in Victorian Britain. As many commentators worried about the political consequences of this 'Leap in the Dark', authors and artists began to re-evaluate their own role in a democratic society that was also becoming more urban and more anonymous. While some fantasized about ways of capturing and holding the attention of the masses, others preferred to make art and literature more exclusive, to shut out the crowd. One path led to 'Sensation'; the other to aestheticism, though there were also efforts to evade this opposition. This book examines the fiction, drama, fine art, and ephemeral forms of these years against the backdrop of Reform. Authors and artists studied include Wilkie Collins, Dion Boucicault, Charles Dickens, James McNeill Whistler, and the popular illustrator, Alfred Concanen.

Nicholas Daly

Nicholas Daly is Professor of Modern English and American Literature at UCD, having previously taught at Trinity College Dublin (1995-2005), and held visiting positions at Wesleyan University and Dartmouth College.  His research interests are in nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and culture, and he is the author of sundry articles and three monographs, most recently Sensation and Modernity in the 1860s (Cambridge University Press, 2009).  His current research explores some of the narratives and images of modernity that circulated among Britain, America and France in the nineteenth century.


Series Editor: P.J. Mathews 
Scholarcast original theme music by: Padhraic Egan, Michael Hussey and Sharon Hussey.
Recording, audio editing, photography and development by: John Matthews, Brian Kelly, Vincent Hoban &
Niall Watts at UCD IT Services, Media Services.
Consultant Producer: Clíodhna Ní Anluain, RTÉ

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