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The Disappearing Act: Heritage Making in Charlotte Riddell’s Novels

Silvana Colella    Università degli Studi di Macerata, Italia    



This article examines the strategies of heritage making in Riddell’s City novels, popular in the 19th century, but little known today. Drawing on late Victorian debates about the preservation of the past and its material remains, the article focuses on the relationship between fictional and non-fictional elements, in Riddell’s urban realism, which frequently pivots on heritage concerns. The main argument is twofold: 1) heritage discourse provides an apt frame for the self-validation of the author’s daring narrative choices; 2) Riddell’s understanding of heritage changes as her vision of capitalism darkens, culminating in a vocal denunciation of the destructive forces at work in the very idea of progress. Her novels generate heritage value in the very gesture of recording the many disappearing acts mournfully witnessed by the narrator.

March 9, 2020
Nov. 19, 2019
Sept. 4, 2019

Keywords: BusinessCity of LondonHeritageRealismPreservationism

Copyright: © 2019 Silvana Colella. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.