AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractThis article will study the relationships between mid-nineteenth century developments in the understanding of psychology and the influence of rail networks. It will take a selection of Sensation fiction as its case study, a genre that has already been detailed to have an intimate relationship with the railways. Considered by some cultural commentators to be ‘railway literature’ in itself, this genre depicts what Nicholas Daly calls ‘the modernisation of the senses’. Railway travel, and the rapidity of new modes of modernity, often dictate the movement of Sensation narratives, and this paper aims to explore the psychological effects of such innovation on the psyches of key characters within the chosen texts. Critical analysis will be mainly focused on three texts, each from a different author in order to show the diverse representation of railway travel’s links with issues of the mind and self. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret will be analysed with the mental states of both the titular Lady Audley and her investigator Robert Audley, and their use of rail travel, in mind. Wilkie Collins’s No Name will be examined in terms of the effects that rail travel has on identity, as well as how the technology is used as a plot device within the sensation narrative. Bolstering the literary analysis will be an examination of the effect of the railway on social and individual psyches, as detailed by both historians and contemporary commentators. The paper draws many ideas from the work of Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s text The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space; of particular interest are his Marxist interpretations of the space of the train carriage, and the essential liminality associated with it. As well as this, nineteenth-century psychology will also be addressed, including the influence of industry and networks on Herbert Spencer’s theories of Social Darwinism, and Sigmund Freud’s notion of the fugueur – a figure that emerged through his research and writing on trains and rail travel that subsequently influenced the quintessentially nineteenth-century idea of the flâneur. My paper will attempt to expose the psychological influence of rail travel on the individual self through an analysis of Sensation fiction, and how discourses of the two phenomena (railways and psychology) often seemed to share conceptual frameworks and lexical fields.
CitationLeahy, R. (2021). Trains and brains: Splitting the self in sensation fiction. In B. Cowlinshaw (Ed.) The rail, the body and the pen: Essays on travel, medicine and technology in 19th century British literature. McFarland.
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