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  • Zdjęcie autoraAleksandra Tryniecka

Aleksandra's New Book is Here! "Women's Literary Portraits in the Victorian and Neo-Victorian Novel"

Zaktualizowano: 22 gru 2023

The 9th of February 2023' was such an important day for me: my second book appeared on the literary scene! This book is entirely different from "Bunky and the Walms: The Christmas Story" (published by Wipf and Stock on the 13th of October 2021), yet I hold both of them close to my heart. They are, in a way, my literary children and they help me to become whole as a person and a writer. Published by Rowman and Littlefield in the United States,"Women's Literary Portraits..." is the fruit of many years of my research and interest in literary characters in the Victorian and Neo-Victorian novel. This book became a part of my life: it epitomizes my growth as a scholar and literature lover, and my day-to-day experience with the Victorian and neo-Victorian novel.

So, how did it all start? At the age of 15, I received Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White" - English version. I remember that while reading I had to consult my dictionary, but after reading the book, I decided that in the future I would be studying English literature. This dream came true and, finally, in June 2018, I became the Doctor of Literature! What I found especially endearing about "The Woman in White" was, apart from the captivating, ingenious plot, the elegant langauge resonating with elegance and peace from every page. I fell in love with this magical, sublime language, and I fell in love with the Victorian novel. It invited a new, aesthetically pleasing quality into my life, as I always believed that words, their sounds, and meanings always carried a great value: from their sounds, to their colours, and even tastes. What is more, I found my peace and pleasure in reading nineteenth-century novels. Being a woman myself, I also began investigaing how women - as literary characters - were portrayed on the pages of nineteenth-century works written both by men and women from that epoch. I was interested in everything: from social positions of women portrayed as literary characters, to the clothes they would be wearing in particular texts. I felt that each literary woman was a particular story herself, and isn't it through stories that we, Readers, grow and become more interesting, beautiful, and developed versions of ourselves too? What can be a more wholesome experience to grow as a person than reading an enriching and truly captivating work?

On entering Maria Curie-Skłodowska University and beginning my doctoral studies, I discovered that, just like me, the world was also fascinated by the nineteenth-century novel. Yet, for the world, it oftentimes worked in one of these two ways: the narratives from the Victorian novel were either glorified as nostalgic and sentimental, or rejected as restrictive and limiting. I found both of these arguments inaccurate and overly generalising. On the contrary, what I found particularly accurate was Charles Dickens' statement concerning the Victorian age: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". This argument allowed me to step aside and reach beyond the two-edged discussion concerning whether to glorify or harshly criticise the Victorian age. At last, it allowed me to understand that each and every epoch is, in its own ways, "the best of times, and the worst of times". Decidedly, each epoch works like a mirror in which we can see ourselves - I discovered this value in the Victorian age as well. The only indirect connection that we have with the Victorian past is, apart from the physical items from this distant past, literature itself. I believe that glancing at the Victorian bygone and stating: "Oh, these were the perfect days comparing to what we have nowadays!" is wrong. Similarly, I believe that looking at the Victorian past while trying to destroy it is also ethically wrong, not to say immoral - for if we didn't have this past in front of our eyes, we wouldn't be able to have any point of reference, any discussion, or place to grow and become better, wiser, and more compassionate. Therefore, I believe that the Victorian past should be approached and presented in an ethical, empathetic way. We tend to forget that we are only guests on this journey into the past and, therefore, we should be respectful. Perhaps one day the future generations might take a critical look at our current times, and come to the same Dickensian conclusion, hopefully not trying to overly glorify our days or entirely remove them from the surface of the earth.

Instead, I believe that the past (and the literary past in particular) is always an important lesson, and this is how I approach the Victorian age in my book - respectfully, as a lesson to be learnt about the past, a homework that has to be done, but also as a lesson about ourselves. For, paradoxically, as you might find in my book, we are still partly living in the Victorian past in so many socio-cultural ways. For instance, the neo-Victorian genre appeared only thanks to the pre-existence of the Victorian novel. The modern, revisionary neo-Victorian genre offers space to the so-far unheard and marginalized literary voices, women including. Without the Victorian past, this valuable and vital discussion would never exist, therefore I am grateful for both the past and the present. In my book, I hoped to celebrate women as literary characters, for in both the Victorian and neo-Victorian novels women offer a profound testimony to their strength, persistence, courage, and beauty.

Dear Readers, let me invite you onto the journey through the pages of my book.

(The article continues below.)

"Women's Literary Portraits in the Victorian and Neo-Victorian Novel" is not only a journey on which one encounters women as memorable literary figures, but also a historical travel into the past, with all its socio-cultural aspects intertwining with the presentations of literary figures. The book investigates the nineteenth-century readership and traces the beginnings of the novel as the genre particularly growing in popularity in the Victorian age. From there, the Readers are invited to dive into the Victorian world, with women at the very centre of it, always suspended between the domestic and the public sphere. This balancing between the private and the public makes women even more interesting - both as historical figures and literary characters. I deeply believe that, actually, it turns them into the mirrors of social life. In my book, the Readers will encounter a selection of Victorian and neo-Victorian novels, all of which are close to my heart: from the aforementioned Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White", through the classic "Jane Eyre" by my beloved authoress, Charlotte Brontë, to such modern works as: Jean Rhys' "Wide Sargasso Sea", Claire Boylan's "Emma Brown", or Gail Carrigers' "Soulless". We will be looking at women as literary characters in both Victorian and Neo-Victorian novel from numerous angles: from their social life, through their inner struggles and dreams, to their clothes. I hope that every Reader will find something appealing in this literary journey from the Victorian past onto the present. Importantly, it is an intertextual work, therefore every text remains in relation to another pre-existing or co-existing work, and nothing exists on its own, without a particular point of reference - just as our current world would not exist without the past.

At last, I would like to present to you the cover of my book. I painted the nineteenth-century woman glancing at the mirror in which she sees a vague silhouette of the modern woman. In this sense, the cover illustrates a transition between the Victorian age and our times. Yet, at the same time, it highlights the fact that, while examining the Victorian past, we examine our presence as well.

Dear Readers, I would like to invite you to watch the trailer dedicated to my new book (it is below)!

Thank you so much for being on this literary journey with me, and for allowing me to present to you my new work! Since everything makes sense only in mutual relation, this book would never be whole without you.

With many best wishes or, following the Victorian etiquette:

Ever Your Affectionate Friend and Author -

- Aleksandra Tryniecka

You can find my book here:

It is also available in bookstores and in online bookstores as well.

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