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  • Cited by 7

Book description

Revealing the web of mutual influences between nineteenth-century scientific and cultural discourses of appearance, Mimicry and Display in Victorian Literary Culture argues that Victorian science and culture biologized appearance, reimagining imitation, concealment and self-presentation as evolutionary adaptations. Exploring how studies of animal crypsis and visibility drew on artistic theory and techniques to reconceptualise nature as a realm of signs and interpretation, Abberley shows that in turn, this science complicated religious views of nature as a text of divine meanings, inspiring literary authors to rethink human appearances and perceptions through a Darwinian lens. Providing fresh insights into writers from Alfred Russel Wallace and Thomas Hardy to Oscar Wilde and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Abberley reveals how the biology of appearance generated new understandings of deception, identity and creativity; reacted upon narrative forms such as crime fiction and the pastoral; and infused the rhetoric of cultural criticism and political activism.


‘Mimicry and Display does something rather wonderful: while you’ll read Victorian and Edwardian literature from a new perspective, you’ll also never see nature in quite the same way again.’

Catherine Charlwood Source: British Association for Victorian Studies Newsletter

‘This volume provides a cultural history of crypsis, an evolutionary phenomenon in which organisms protect themselves by modifying their appearance to hide within an environment or copy the features of more dominant organisms. Recommended.’

M. C. Cohen Source: Choice

‘Mimicry and Display fits nicely within the Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture series, which has done so much to expand the range of high-quality scholarship on topics related to science and nature, technology, environment, and medicine. The chapters on Allen, Hardy, and late-century cultural criticism are especially good, and the book displays how widely and deeply scientific accounts of mimicry and camouflage in the natural world reverberated through Victorian literary culture.’

Jonathan Smith Source: Victorian Studies

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  • Chapter 1 - Seeing Things
    pp 28-64
  • Art, Nature and Science in Representations of Crypsis


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