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    Re-calibrating the urban matrix: imaginaries of Victorian London in steampunk fiction

    Esser, Helena Katharina (2020) Re-calibrating the urban matrix: imaginaries of Victorian London in steampunk fiction. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Steampunk, a retro-speculative mode that infuses neo-Victorian settings with technofantasy and retrofuturism, more often than not gravitates towards Victorian London as its potent, adventurous setting. In so doing it both actualises collectively remembered imaginaries of this industrial metropolis and adds its own, anachronistic twists. What can steampunk London tell us about our relationship with the legacies of the Victorian era and the texts that transmit it to us? What are the meta-historical, meta-fictional, and speculative mechanisms that operate within steampunk’s anachronistic re-imagination, and how does it re-evaluate our present-day relationships with and within the city? This thesis endeavours to answer these questions by examining steampunk’s relationship with Victorian London within an interdisciplinary framework of neo-Victorian, science fiction, urban, and media studies. It contextualises steampunk fiction of the first (1980s-90s) and second (2007-present) waves within formative Victorian discourse about the city as well as present-day cultural influences. I analyse seminal steampunk’s synthesis of a Victorian imaginary inspired by Henry Mayhew’s urban ethnography and 1980s cyberpunk and investigate how steampunk’s anachronistic remix leverages collective memory by looking at late-Victorian urban Gothic and mythologies about the East End. I then consider how urban space is represented and mobilised as narrative texture in video games set in a Victorian steampunk London. Lastly, I examine both steampunk’s conservative and radical potential in re-imagining gender by comparing steampunk’s action heroines to the mobile icon of the fin de siècle New Woman through the lens of various feminisms, as well as considering queer genealogies in the steampunk city. In so doing, I also illustrate the evolution and potential of steampunk fiction itself.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2021 15:51
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:42


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