In Victorian Metafiction, Tabitha Sparks turns a searchlight on Victorian literature, illuminating a substantial group of novels written by women that feature a woman writer or autobiographer as heroine. Some of these novels are well known—Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, Rhoda Broughton’s Cometh Up as a Flower—while others have attracted only small groups of scholars: Sara Payson Willis’s Ruth Hall, Charlotte Riddell’s A Struggle for Fame, Eliza Lynn Linton’s The Autobiography of Christopher Kirkland, Emily Morse Symonds’s A Writer of Books, Mary Cholmondeley’s Red Pottage, and more. These texts have often seemed inseparable from the lives led by their creators, bound up within—and apparently entirely explained by—a well-meaning biographical criticism. By interpreting these novels as metafiction, however, Sparks shifts the focus to the sophisticated narrative strategies at work within their pages.

Sparks defines metafiction (the book is full of valuably crisp definitions) as literature...

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