Creating character: Theories of nature and nurture in Victorian sensation fiction

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This book explores the ways in which the two leading sensation authors of the 1860s, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Wilkie Collins, engaged with nineteenth-century ideas about personality formation and the extent to which it can be influenced either by the subject or by others. Innovative readings of seven sensation novels explore how they employ and challenge Victorian theories of heredity, degeneration, inherent constitution, education, upbringing and social circumstance. Far from presenting a reductive depiction of 'nature' versus 'nurture', Braddon and Collins show the creation of character to be a complex interplay of internal and external factors. Drawing on material ranging from medical textbooks, to sociological treatises, to popular periodicals, Creating character shows how sensation authors situated themselves at the intersections of established and developing, conservative and radical, learned and sensationalist thought about how identity could be made and modified.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester, [England]
PublisherManchester University Press
Number of pages232
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5261-2659-7
ISBN (Print)1-5261-2658-3, 1-5261-3627-9, 9781784995133
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2018

Publication series

NameInterventions: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century

Bibliographical note

Includes bibliographical references and index


  • Characters and characteristics in literature
  • Personality in literature
  • Literatur
  • Englisch
  • English fiction
  • Sensationsroman
  • Identitätsfindung


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