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This epilogue offers a concluding excursus, and looks back at a few key themes established in the collection of essays in Victorian Engagements with the Bible and Antiquity. Its aim is to tease out some further points for discussion concerning what could be described as a Janus-faced tendency within Victorian self-identity – a looking back to the religious and classical past, in the very process of charging forward. This excursus will introduce the conceptual vocabulary of simultaneity and of cultural forgetting, used respectively by Benedict Anderson and Paul Connerton, to facilitate some further reflection on Victorian experiences of time and temporality. It will contend that Victorian cultural engagements with the Bible and antiquity were always mediated via distinctly modern ways of knowing. If the book as a whole details a series of critical engagements with biblical and classical pasts through the long nineteenth century, then in this epilogue, an opportunity arises for analysing the very conditions – the material and epistemological frameworks – which shaped such engagements.
Thispiece offers a introduction and overview of thekey themes established in the collection of essays in Victorian Engagements with the Bible and Antiquity: The Shock of the Old. It opens by alluding to the Victorian pride in progress, in technology, in travel – in the newness of modernity. It proceeds to point out, however, that it was a critical engagement with the past that most challenged how Victorians understood the world and their place in it. In other words, this Victorian anxiety about progress was fed by the shock of the old. The piece then introduces thecore thesis of the volume as a whole, which is thatVictorian encounters with the past – though quintessentially modern – can only be properly understood through the nineteenth century’s passionate exploration of the interaction between religion and historicity, between the theological and the classical, between the Bible and classical antiquity.
The nineteenth century was a period in which ideas of history and time were challenged as never before. This is the first book to explore how the study of classical antiquity and the study of the Bible together formed an image of the past which became central to Victorian self-understanding. These specially commissioned, multi-disciplinary essays brilliantly reveal the richness of Victorian thinking about the past and how important these models of antiquity were in the expression of modernity. In an age of progress, cultural anxiety and cultural hope was fuelled by the shock of the old – new discoveries about the deep past, and new ways of thinking about humanity's place in history. The volume provides a rich and readable feast which will be fundamental to all those seeking a greater understanding of the Victorians, as well as of the reception of classics and the Bible.
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