Victorian Literature and Culture

Research Article

THE SEDUCTION OF SEEING IN M. E. BRADDON'S ELEANOR'S VICTORY: VISUAL TECHNOLOGY, SEXUALITY, AND THE EVOCATIVE PUBLISHING CONTEXT OF ONCE A WEEK

Laurie Garrisona1

a1 Royal Holloway, University of London

Abstract

The Victorian fascination with the influence of technology on human vision led to a proliferation of replications of its effects in all manner of media, including novel writing. Like the kaleidoscope that holds the viewer in thrall, M. E. Braddon's sensation novel Eleanor's Victory, as this reviewer describes, holds a certain “power” over the reader that forces her to listen to, if not accept, the arguments Braddon posits in her work. “Power” is at issue in other ways in Braddon's work as her heroines continually seek ways of developing agency by shaping sexual identities that press the limits of the norm of the bourgeois family unit. What is also significant here is the appropriateness of the kaleidoscope as a metaphor for Braddon's writing, a metaphor she used personally in describing her work in an unpublished letter: “I will give the kaleidoscope another turn, and will do my best with the old bits of glass and pins and rubbish” (letter to Edmund Yates, qtd. in Maxwell 150). The kaleidoscope fractures the vision of a single object or scene into a multitude of different but interrelated forms of the same. One of the prominent issues Braddon repeatedly addresses in her work is the construction of multiple forms of sexuality. The fracturing or multiplying effect of the kaleidoscope resembles the isolation and reduction of different forms of sexuality as described by Foucault in The History of Sexuality.

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