Literary Remains

Representations of Death and Burial in Victorian England

By Mary Elizabeth Hotz

Subjects: English Literature, British Studies, Death And Dying, History, Nineteenth-century Studies
Series: SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Paperback : 9780791476604, 229 pages, January 2010
Hardcover : 9780791476598, 229 pages, December 2008

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Disinterring Death

1. Down among the Dead: Edwin Chadwick’s Burial Reform Discourse in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England

2. “Taught by Death What Life Should Be”: Representations of Death in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton and North and South

3. “To Profit Us When He Was Dead”: Dead-Body Politics in Our Mutual Friend

4. Death Eclipsed: The Contested Churchyard in Thomas Hardy’s Novels

5. “The Tonic of Fire”: Cremation in Late Victorian England

Conclusion: Dracula’s Last Word

Epilogue: The Traffic in Bodies


Explores Victorian responses to death and burial in literature, journalism, and legal writing.


Literary Remains explores the unexpectedly central role of death and burial in Victorian England. As Alan Ball, creator of HBO's Six Feet Under, quipped, "Once you put a dead body in the room, you can talk about anything. " So, too, with the Victorians: dead bodies, especially their burial and cremation, engaged the passionate attention of leading Victorians, from sanitary reformers like Edwin Chadwick to bestselling novelists like Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, and Bram Stoker. Locating corpses at the center of an extensive range of concerns, including money and law, medicine and urban architecture, social planning and folklore, religion and national identity, Mary Elizabeth Hotz draws on a range of legal, administrative, journalistic, and literary writing to offer a thoughtful meditation on Victorian attitudes toward death and burial, as well as how those attitudes influenced present-day deathway practices. Literary Remains gives new meaning to the phrase that serves as its significant theme: "Taught by death what life should be. "

Mary Elizabeth Hotz, a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, is Associate Professor of English at the University of San Diego.


". ..Literary Remains is a fantastic literary companion and is worth reading even if you're not initially interested in burial practices. " — M/C Reviews

"…Hotz not only contextualizes her readings within a historical framework surrounding the passage of the Burial Acts, the building of large public cemeteries in the suburbs, and the late-century introduction of cremation as a widespread social practice, but offers a perceptive and compelling rhetorical analysis of the sociological, political, and theological discourse about burial. " — Victorian Studies

"…the painstaking research on debates about funerary reform that Hotz brings together will be valuable for future investigations of death in Victorian culture. " — Studies in English Literature

"This is an ambitious, energetic and rigorous attempt to do that very difficult thing, integrate detailed and historically informed analysis of the documents of nineteenth-century burial reform and of major literary texts into a lucid and complex argument that doesn't fight shy of contradiction and difficulty. " — Mortality

"Drawing on a vast range of primary sources—official documents, newspapers and periodicals, travel guides—and the work of anthropologists, historians, and the substantial engagements within literary studies dealing with representations of death and the dead, Hotz's perceptive, engaging, and eloquent study will be welcomed by a range of scholars in the humanities and social sciences. " — CHOICE

"I read this fascinating book with great pleasure. It makes a valuable contribution to the study of Victorian practices of death and burial and will be an essential supplement to existing studies of the culture of Victorian melancholy and bereavement. " — Joel Faflak, author of Romantic Psychoanalysis: The Burden of the Mystery