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“Parliament is Burning”: Dynamite, Terrorism and the English Novel

Ó Donghaile, D (2018) “Parliament is Burning”: Dynamite, Terrorism and the English Novel. In: Herman, PC, (ed.) Terrorism and Literature. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 212-229. ISBN 9781108498241

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Dynamite novels, ranging from best-selling works such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Dynamiter (1885) to Joseph Conrad’s modernist examination of the disruptive politics of anarchism in The Secret Agent (1907) reveal that terrorism was a staple feature of popular and avant-garde writing of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. Tales featuring exploding newspaper stalls, bombs concealed inside books and even aerial assaults on London led by German revolutionaries and Irish Fenians fed a widespread demand for literature that was predicated on the political shocks of terrorism. A new type of literary romance that emerged in response to the Fenian bombing campaign of the 1880s, the dynamite novel was an important genre that exploited contemporary crises that fascinated the popular imagination, surviving the immediate period these events and lasting well into the 1900s. Generically, it exploited Irish republican attacks on the imperial metropolis of London but, politically, it served both imperialism and anti-colonial nationalism, with authors ranging from the self-confessed unionist, Robert Louis Stevenson, to Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, the Irishman who directed the bombing campaign following his release from imprisonment. While such authors were, ideologically opposed to one-another, they shared a commitment to the aestheticisation of political violence, and in transmitting the terror-effect of actual attacks to the imaginations of readers of literary and popular fiction, their novels connected the political excitement that was generated by the Fenian bombing campaign to the oncoming literary innovations of modernism.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: dynamite; fiction; fenianism; anarchism; Joseph Conrad; Grant Allen; Robert Louis Stevenson; Henry James
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2019 10:44
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 21:09
Editors: Herman, PC
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10427
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