The Necromantics: Reanimation, the Historical Imagination, and Victorian British and Irish Literature (Ohio State UP, 2023) dwells on the literal afterlives of history. Reading the reanimated corpses—monstrous, metaphorical, and occasionally electrified—that Mary Shelley, Robert Browning, Charles Dickens, W. B. Yeats, Bram Stoker, and others bring to life, Renée Fox argues that these undead figures embody the present’s desire to remake the past in its own image. Fox positions “necromantic literature” at a nineteenth-century intersection between sentimental historiography, medical electricity, imperial gothic monsters, and the Irish Literary Revival, contending that these unghostly bodies resist critical assumptions about the always-haunting power of history.
By considering Irish Revival texts within the broader scope of nineteenth-century necromantic works, The Necromantics
challenges Victorian studies’ tendency to merge Irish and English national traditions into a single British whole, as well as Irish studies’ postcolonial efforts to cordon off a distinct Irish canon. Fox thus forges new connections between conflicting political, formal, and historical traditions. In doing so, she proposes necromantic literature as a model for a contemporary reparative reading practice that can reanimate nineteenth-century texts with new aesthetic affinities, demonstrating that any effective act of reading will always be an effort of reanimation.
Renee Fox is an Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz where she also serves as the Jordan-Stern Presidential Chair for Dickens and Nineteenth-Century Studies and Co-Director of The Center for Monster Studies. She’s co-edited quite a number of works in Irish Studies, Irish literature and monster literature as well writing for journals such as Victorian Studies, the Irish University Review and the New Hibernia Review.
Aidan Beatty teaches in the history department at Carnegie Mellon University.