The article explores the reception of 1821 in Victorian popular culture, focusing on the representation of Greek women in stories published in contemporary periodicals. The two dominant tropes of Greek womanhood that emerge in popular fiction and poetry published from the 1830s to the 1890s the captive harem slave and the intrepid warrior arouse sympathy for the enslaved women but also evoke liberal ideas on womens national and social roles. These texts foreground the position of Greek women within a nineteenth-century social context and imbue in them virtues and conflicts such as radicalism, the enfranchisement of women and middle-class domesticity that concerned Britain as much as Greece. Greek women, as represented in these stories, construct a Victorian narrative of 1821 and of the Greek nation that oscillates between familiarity and strangeness, freedom and enslavement, real and imaginary. These largely neglected texts challenge traditional definitions of philhellenism, which depended on the legacy of ancient Greece as justification for the cause of the countrys liberation, and instead construct new myths about Greece, participating in the discursive production of its national fantasy. They also provide the opportunity of reconsidering the cultural position of Modern Greece in the Victorian period beyond the division between Hellenism and Orientalism.
Athens emerges as a paradox in travel literature; it is both a site of timeless monuments and a city in constant metamorphosis. From the late seventeenth to the twenty-first century, a great number of travelogues have revealed the changing identity of Athens and the ways in which its images were circulated and interpreted through the centuries. Classical imagery became the symbol of Athens through its first detailed descriptions by early travelers, while eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scholars, writers, and artists negotiated impulses to idealize, admire, or even satirize the city Athens in their secular pilgrimages. When Athens became the capital of the new nation after the GreekWar of Independence, its symbolic significance increased, suggesting not only the continuity with antiquity but also the divided position of Greece between past and present, East and West, the ideal and the real. Following its transformation into a modern metropolis, Athens continues to challenge travel writers to capture its ambiguity and explore its mythologies and traumas.
George Gissing's novel Sleeping Fires (1895) presents a late nineteenth-century Athens that is divided between its ancient and modern identities. As a reflection on the significance of Hellenism in Victorian culture, the novel narrates the random encounter between Edmund Langley, a self-exile with a classical education, and Louis Reed, a passionate and radical young man, who is revealed to be Langley's lost and unknown son. In the context of Gissing's diaries and letters recording his visit to Athens, Sleeping Fires portrays the city as an ambivalent space, both inspirational and deceptive. Gissing's juxtaposition of the ancient monuments' beauty with the bleakness of their modern surroundings emphasizes the distance between antiquity and modernity as well as Victorians' misinterpretations of Greece, revealing the period's conflicting discourses about Hellenism.
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens School of Philosophy Faculty of English Language and Literature (+30) 210-7277745 Zografou Athens, ZipCode 15784 email@example.com