The function of fantasy in Victorian literature, art and architecture
In this thesis I examine the ways in which the Victorians used fantasy in literature, art, and architecture to explore the main areas of debate and key issues which were giving rise to anxiety in their society, in some cases upholding the status quo, but in others questioning accepted social mores. In particular, I consider the ways in which fantasy was used to examine what happens in a society when its traditional religious beliefs are challenged, either by commercialism as an economic creed, or by the acquisition of new knowledge, be this in the realm of science (theories of evolution) or the humanities (the new biblical criticism from Germany). Following on from this, I look at the possible alternatives to traditional religious belief which fantasy seemed able to offer to an age which appeared to need spirituality without dogma. I argue that one of the strategies most commonly adopted by the Victorians in the creation of fantasy is the disruption of time, and I consider the part played in literature and art by medievalism, and in architecture by the Gothic style and the Gothic Revival movement. This is followed by an examination of the role of Classicism in architecture, and ancient mythologies, such as Greek, Hebraic, or Babylonian, in literature and art. Finally, I consider the use of geological time as a point of departure in creating scientific fantasies. Given the very close links between the arts until the advent of aesthetic criticism at the end of the nineteenth century, I have drawn freely upon the visual and the literary arts. The main emphasis is, however, on literature and painting, with architecture playing a lesser, though still important, part in this thesis.