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date: 15 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

During the Victorian period it was widely held that the literary and the political were separate and distinct spheres, a view which did not, however, prevent many writers from using works of literature to address explicitly political issues. This chapter explores the reasons behind this apparent paradox, one which helps explain why modern accounts of the politics of Victorian literary works, notably the realist novel, are often quite different from the claims made for them by the Victorians themselves. The chapter focuses on describing Victorian literary taste, and the ways it was shaped by concerns about a growing commercialization and democratization of literary culture. More precisely, it shows how anxieties about the development of popular literary forms on the one hand and, later in the century, of avant-garde movements on the other, led to an increased politicization of the literary, as various elites competed with each other to control definitions of literariness.

Keywords: literary taste, popular literature, avant-garde literature, commercialization, democratization, cultural elitism

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