Another important collection emerging from the fresh critical interest in the fin de siècle during the 1990s. The fourteen essays combine a sense of defining a new field—with now almost canonical acknowledgment of the areas of the New Woman, sexology, socialism, and empire—with a critical and theoretically reflective edge to the volume.
Margaret Oliphant Wilson Oliphant (b. 1828–d. 1897) was a prolific and influential Victorian author. She turned her professional hand to a variety of prose genres, publishing some ninety-eight novels; over fifty short stories; biographies, both historical and contemporary; historic guides to European cities; and over 300 periodical articles. Oliphant never published under her maiden name of Wilson, though four of her early novels were published under the name of her brother, William Wilson. Her fiction was variously published anonymously, under the initials M. O. W. O, and, after her widowhood in 1859, under the name Mrs. Oliphant. Although she used a variety of publishers, she was best known, for almost fifty years, as the mainstay of the literary periodical , sometimes producing serialized fiction, a book review, and an essay for the same monthly edition. Her posthumously published autobiography, in which she questioned whether she had published too much and outlived the literary fashions of midcentury, was partly responsible for a rapid eclipse of her reputation that lasted for much of the 20th century. The closing decades of the 20th century saw a reawakening of interest in her work, prompted by the breadth of her journalism, the unflinching realism of much of her fiction, and her negotiations with a male-dominated literary marketplace. Although her views on “the woman question” did not always make her an easy candidate for feminists to champion, critics have increasingly recognized the individuality of expression and intelligence with which she treated topics as diverse as her Scottish inheritance and various facets of 19th-century spirituality.
, , and prove that scholarly interest in the fin de siècle did exist prior to the 1990s, but as Temple indicates, the term itself was perceived to have shaky intellectual status at the time and chiefly took its identity from the decadent movement that forms the mainspring of Dowling’s work. A number of centennial conferences and events in the late 1980s and early 1990s stimulated a new wave of interest in the literature and culture of the period 1880–1900 that tended to be interdisciplinary in approach. Several durable and significant collections of essays emerged as a result: set the agenda for much work that followed, with its engagement with wider cultural history of the period and the recovery of some “forgotten” writers; is rather more informed by critical and theoretical concerns with contributions by scholars such as Terry Eagleton and Anne Janowitz, who bring expertise from different fields to bear on the period. is a collection aimed more directly at undergraduates with a focus on commonly taught popular fiction. More recently, , like all works in the Cambridge Companions series, seeks coverage of all critically current aspects of the period with excellent scholarly apparatus and is a good starting point for students and more advanced scholars alike. provides a good interdisciplinary overview of the broader European artistic context during the period.