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Victorian Literature Marie Corelli
by
Kirsten MacLeod

Introduction

In her lifetime, Marie Corelli (b. 1855–d. 1924) was one of the most famous and highly paid writers of the day, enjoying an international readership. Her 1895 novel, The Sorrows of Satan, sold over 50,000 copies in its first seven weeks and has been credited with being the first modern best seller. Though she lapsed into obscurity after her death, in the late Victorian and Edwardian era she outstripped the combined sales of Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Corelli’s oeuvre includes thirty-one novels, several volumes of short stories, a volume of poetry, and a number of collections of essays and tracts. Her works both spanned and combined a range of genres, including the gothic, romance, historical, and society novels. Her energetic writing style, exotic and mysterious locales, and religious eclecticism appealed to a broad cross-class popular readership on a number of levels. Corelli’s reception among professional critics and reviewers, who characterized her work as florid and sensational, however, was poor. This perception was one shared, with a few exceptions, by the handful of biographers, critics, and scholars who wrote about her between her death in 1924 and the 1990s. As a consequence, much of this early writing on Corelli is characterized by an ill-concealed distaste for her work. With the development of the discipline of book history and the growth in interest in popular literature and culture brought about by the rise of cultural studies, Corelli has begun to receive serious critical attention. This attention has focused strongly on Corelli as cultural phenomenon and on the sociohistorical context of her works, though there is a growing interest in critically reevaluating her aesthetic in terms of its relationship to canonical genres and figures.

Biography

Biographies of Corelli tend to fall into two camps. They are either hagiographies that perpetuate the myths and legends around the author (Carr 1901, Coates and Bell 1903, Vyver 1930) or, they are patronizing and dismissive accounts of her career (Bullock 1940, Bigland 1953, Masters 1978). These biographies have a kind of historic interest that will be valuable to those seeking a more in-depth understanding of Corelli’s status in certain periods of the 20th century, though the hagiographies, particularly, are not useful for “facts” about her life. For those new to Corelli, the most useful biographies are Masters 1978 and Ransom 1999. Masters 1978 is the more thorough account of the two, though Masters is disparaging toward his subject. Ransom 1999, by contrast, provides a long-overdue feminist framework within which to understand Corelli’s life. Though the author is not technically a biographer, Federico 2000 (in the chapter “Who Was Marie Corelli?”) offers a cogent analysis of the problematic state of biographical representations of Corelli for researchers who might want an understanding of this important context.

  • Bigland, Eileen. Marie Corelli: The Woman and the Legend: A Biography. London: Jarrolds, 1953.

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    A patronizing account of Corelli’s life that devotes its attention to the 1855–1906 period, hastily skimming over the last eighteen years (1906–1924) in a single chapter and making much of her failed love affair with painter Arthur Severn.

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  • Bullock, George. Marie Corelli: The Life and Death of a Best-seller. London: Constable, 1940.

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    Misogynistic and patronizing perspective. Bullock engages in a pseudo-psychoanalytic analysis by which he concludes that Corelli was “frigid” and an example of “retarded development.” Notably, Bullock is the first biographer to delve into the mystery, still unsolved, of Corelli’s parentage. Corelli’s will is included in an appendix.

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  • Carr, Kent. Miss Marie Corelli. London: Henry J. Drane, 1901.

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    One of two biographies written in her lifetime. This is a hagiographic view, one that acknowledges its own bias. Contains interesting illustrations, including an image of a blood-spattered, bullet hole–riddled page from a copy of The Murder of Delicia discovered in the Boer trenches.

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  • Coates, T. F. G., and R. S. Warren Bell. Marie Corelli, the Writer and the Woman. London: Hutchinson, 1903.

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    The second biography written during Corelli’s lifetime, the purpose of which seems to be to defend Corelli from her detractors. Coates and Bell offer only the unreliable information Corelli provided about her own life, and the volume focuses primarily on her writing.

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  • Federico, Annette. Idol of Suburbia: Marie Corelli and Late-Victorian Literary Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

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    Federico’s chapter, “Who Was Marie Corelli?” is not strictly a biographical account. Rather, it is an informed critical analysis of “cultural readings” of Corelli, drawing on obituaries, biographies, memoirs, letters, and literary reviews. It serves as a useful starting point for assessing the biographical terrain of Corelli studies.

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  • Masters, Brian. Now Barabbas Was a Rotter: The Extraordinary Life of Marie Corelli. London: Hamilton, 1978.

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    The best-researched and most useful of Corelli biographies, unfortunately hampered by Masters’s misogyny and relentless disparagement of his subject.

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  • Ransom, Teresa. The Mysterious Miss Marie Corelli: Queen of Victorian Bestsellers. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1999.

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    A welcome corrective to the ill-concealed disparagement that marks many other biographies. Ransom’s feminist perspective paints a picture of Corelli as a strong-minded woman with a will to succeed in a harsh male-dominated environment. Lacks the detail and attention to her writing that represents the strengths of Masters’s biography.

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  • Vyver, Bertha. Memoirs of Marie Corelli. London: Alston Rivers, 1930.

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    An idealized portrait of Corelli by her longtime friend (and possibly lover) that is, understandably, protective of its subject. Notable for its citations from Corelli’s letters to Bertha in the 1880s, demonstrating the deep intimacy between the two women.

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Reference Works

The problem of objectivity apparent in some of the biographies is occasionally evident in the literary biographical material on Corelli. The reductive account of her literary style found in Lucas 1979 now looks dated in light of the more nuanced considerations that characterize the most recent critical scholarship on Corelli. Both Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present and Mullin 2004 avoid this tendency to disdain their subject and are excellent starting points for beginning research on Corelli, though more institutions will have access to Mullin 2004, which is an Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry, than to Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. In the absence of access to Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present or the ODNB, beginning researchers will be well served by the widely available Dictionary of Literary Biography entries on Corelli (see McDowell 1984 and Casey 1995, or Kershner 2011). Blain, et al. 1990 and Sage 1999 offer shorter but good accounts of Corelli’s position within late-Victorian literary culture.

Editions

Despite the growing scholarly interest in Corelli, there are only a handful of critical editions of her works available. The Sorrows of Satan has been issued twice in recent years (Corelli 1998, Corelli 2007). While Corelli 1998, the Oxford edition, will be more widely available in libraries, Corelli 2007 includes useful material for classrooms in the way of contemporary reviews. Students and scholars interested in Wormwood will be well served by Corelli 2004, a thorough contextualization of the novel and additional resources. Corelli 2009 is an edition of one of Corelli’s less critically examined novels, Ziska. Though there is a dearth of critical editions of Corelli, her works are nevertheless widely available. While students should probably avoid the numerous and often expensive offerings of print-on-demand publishers, they might be encouraged to examine some of the free online offerings: the Victorian Women Writers Project and Project Gutenberg are good sources for electronic editions of a number of Corelli’s books, while the Internet Archive has the added benefit of offering a number of user-friendly scans of the original books.

Anthologies

The increasing interest in Corelli will undoubtedly lead to more anthologizing of her work. Delap and Heilmann 2006 is an anthology that helpfully includes some of Corelli’s anti-feminist writings that are not widely available in institutional collections in their original editions. Youngkin 2006 is a selection from Corelli’s correspondence that provides some insight into Corelli’s negotiations in the complex literary field of her day—but it is too small a sample to serve as the basis for a really meaningful examination of this topic. Researchers wanting to explore this topic more will be well served by working with the resources listed in Authorship and the Literary Field.

  • Delap, Lucy, and Ann Heilmann. Anti-Feminism in Edwardian Literature. 6 vols. London: Thoemmes Continuum, 2006.

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    Essays and a tract on the “Woman Question” are included in volume five of this series. The introduction in volume one characterizes Corelli as a “profeminist anti-suffragist with occasional anti-feminist lapses” and attributes her multivocality to self-marketing and a desire for broad appeal.

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  • Youngkin, Molly. “Henrietta Stannard (1856–1911), Marie Corelli (1855–1924), and Annesley Kenealy (1861–1934?).” In Kindred Hands: Letters on Writing by British and American Women Authors. Edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black and Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, 147–162. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2006.

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    Contains selections from Corelli’s letters to the Society of Authors that demonstrate her changing relations with the society and her professional interest in fostering women writers. Stannard’s and Kenealy’s letters to the same body provide a point of comparison and contrast.

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Critical Scholarship

In her highly influential monograph, Federico 2000, Federico demonstrates Corelli’s importance across a broad range of cultural and literary fields in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period. Kuehn 2004 is also a highly ambitious recuperative work that brings a theoretically sophisticated approach to a range of Corelli’s writings. Davison and Hartnell 2006 is a special issue on Corelli and is also very good, offering a slightly broader range of approaches to her literary and cultural significance. For those wanting more general evaluations of Corelli’s work, Kowalczyk 1974 provides a good entry point that cogently and succinctly summarizes the writer and her work. Ayres 2003 is a more in-depth general overview of Corelli’s life, work, critical reception, and relevance to studies of Victorian literature and culture. Ayres would be an excellent starting point for an undergraduate thinking about writing on Corelli or a teacher interested in including her on a syllabus. For those interested in the critical view of Corelli at earlier points in the 20th century, Samuel 1913, West 1987, and Miller 1977 provide a range of fascinating and sometimes surprising views about her literary reputation and influence.

  • Ayres, Brenda. “Marie Corelli: The Story of One Forgotten.” In Silent Voices: Forgotten Novels by Victorian Writers. Edited by Brenda Ayres, 203–224. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

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    A personal and critical assessment of Corelli’s work. Ayers persuasively argues for the reclamation of Corelli, indicating the ways in which her work is relevant to current interests in Victorian studies. A great resource for students and teachers.

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  • Davison, Carol Margaret, and Elaine M. Hartnell, eds. Special Issue: Marie Corelli: A Critical Reappraisal. Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 181–329.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500526545Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Special issue on Corelli with an excellent selection of essays that consider the aesthetic and ideological complexities of her work ranging across a number of issues: spiritualism, feminism, science, modernism, the gothic, and both high and popular culture.

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  • Federico, Annette R. Idol of Suburbia: Marie Corelli and Late-Victorian Literary Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

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    Federico’s feminist, cultural materialist, and literary critical study offers a variety of compelling perspectives on the woman, her works, her career, and her place in the culture of her day. Federico’s book was largely responsible for reviving interest in Corelli.

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  • Kowalczyk, Richard L. “In Vanished Summertime: Marie Corelli and Popular Culture.” Journal of Popular Culture 7 (1974): 850–863.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-3840.1974.0704_850.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A seminal study of Corelli that provides a useful overview of her position as a writer and that outlines the main themes and preoccupations of her work.

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  • Kuehn, Julia. Glorious Vulgarity: Marie Corelli’s Feminine Sublime in a Popular Context. Berlin: Logos, 2004.

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    A theoretically sophisticated examination of Corelli’s work. Builds on Felski 1995 (see Victorian and Edwardian Popular Literature and Culture and Feminism and Women’s Writing) to explore Corelli’s development of an aesthetic of the feminine sublime in her popular fiction. Draws on theories of genre, the sublime, the mass market, gender, and psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, the monograph is not widely available.

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  • Miller, Henry. Gliding into the Everglades and Other Essays. Lake Oswego, OR: Lost Pleiade Press, 1977.

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    Brief but fascinating appraisal of Corelli from an unlikely admirer. A testament to the heterogeneity of Corelli’s readership. In his chapter on Corelli, Miller praises the “brilliant dialogue” and “dramatic” action in her melodramatic work. Reprinted from the New York Times Book Review. Limited private press edition and very scarce.

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  • Samuel, Horace. Modernities. London: Kegan Paul Trench, 1913.

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    Vigorously and engagingly written chapter on Corelli, despite a condescending treatment. She seems oddly positioned in a work that treats Wedekind, Nietzsche, Strindberg, and the Futurists as exemplars of the spirit of modernity, but Samuel’s choice indicates how difficult it was, even for her detractors, to ignore her.

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  • West, Rebecca. The Strange Necessity. London: Virago, 1987.

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    Originally published in 1928. Corelli receives only brief mention in this essay, “The Tosh Horse,” on best-selling writers. West is at once contemptuous of and fascinated by Corelli’s abilities, and the essay is important for understanding Corelli’s position within the highbrow-middlebrow-lowbrow debates of the 1920s.

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Religion and Science

One of the central preoccupations in Corelli’s work is spirituality—in particular, an interest in reconciling science with religion. This is an emerging and vibrant field in Corelli studies that has generated considerable scholarship in the last few years. Much of this work has been concerned with characterizing the hybridity of her religious beliefs, what she called an “Electric Creed,” that draws on a variety of scientific and religious movements of the fin-de-siècle. The most thorough account of the development of Corelli’s views is found in Hallim 2006, though Moody 2006 provides a good general overview in the service of a larger argument about how Corelli’s hybrid religion accounts for her broad popular appeal. Franklin 2003 and White 2007 offer detailed explorations of specific aspects of Corelli’s religious creed, with Franklin focusing on its links to Buddhism, and White examining Corelli’s intervention in Scriptural debates of the period. Galvan 2010, Siebers 2006, and Willburn 2008, meanwhile, are interested in the spiritualist/occult aspects. While Siebers 2006 focuses on the relationship between religion and science, Willburn 2008 and Galvan 2010 are concerned with the gendered and, in the case of Galvan, racialized aspects of Corelli’s spiritualism. Felski 1995 is interested less in the hybrid nature of Corelli’s spiritualism and more in its effects: achieving transcendence over the mundane realities of modernity. Kuehn 2004 (see Critical Scholarship) is also excellent for a consideration of the role of religion in Corelli’s evocation of the feminine sublime.

  • Felski, Rita. The Gender of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    Contains a chapter on Corelli that characterizes her interest in spiritualism as one of the central means through which she evokes the “popular sublime.” The supernatural and spiritual are, for Corelli, “a means to the transfiguration and transcendence of a debased social and material reality” (p. 131).

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  • Franklin, J. Jeffrey. “The Counter-Invasion of Britain by Buddhism in Marie Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds and H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She.” Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1 (2003): 19–42.

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    Informed discussion of Corelli’s “adaptation and hybridization” of Buddhism and how it functions in her development of a form of Christianity that also draws on and defines itself against science, market capitalism, fundamentalist Christianity, and spiritualism. Situates Corelli within the larger context of the interest in Buddhism in this period.

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  • Galvan, Jill. “Securing the line: Automatism and cross-cultural encounters in late Victorian Gothic fiction.” In The Sympathetic Medium: Feminine Channeling, The Occult, and Communication Technologies, 1859–1919. By Jill Galvan, 61–98. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

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    A section on Corelli demonstrates the feminist aspects of her development of an “Electric principle of Christianity” in A Romance of Two Worlds and The Soul of Lilith, in which women figure as important channels of spiritual wisdom. Posits an analogy between these women spirit mediums and her sense of her own mission as a “seer-artist.” An earlier version of this work appears in Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1.

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  • Hallim, Robyn. “Marie Corelli’s Best-Selling Electric Creed.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 267–283.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527428Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considered account of Corelli’s development of an “Electric Creed” that attempts to reconcile scientific theories with Christianity. Focuses on A Romance of Two Worlds, The Life Everlasting, and The Secret Power but usefully glosses over the development of these ideas in Corelli’s other spiritual novels and the relationship between her religious and social missions.

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  • Moody, Nickianne. “Moral Uncertainty and the Afterlife: Explaining the Popularity of Marie Corelli’s Early Novels.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 188–205.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527501Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A focused and considered exploration of Corelli’s representation of death and the afterlife within the framework of her eclectic religious creed. Argues that the “interstitial” nature of her representations accounts for the “heterogenous appeal” of Corelli’s work.

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  • Siebers, Alisha. “Marie Corelli’s Magnetic Revitalizing Power.” In Victorian Literary Mesmerism. Edited by Catherine Wynne, 183–202. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.

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    Focuses on Corelli’s appropriation of mesmerism as a means of making Christianity more scientific. Draws on A Romance of Two Worlds to discuss Corelli’s exploration of the tension between the mesmeric trance as a means of inspiration and spiritual authority and as another form of imprisonment.

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  • White, Elizabeth. “Marie Corelli aux prises Avec Les Evangiles dans Barabbas (1893)/Getting to Grips with the Gospels: Interpretation and Elaboration in Marie Corelli’s Barabbas (1893).” Revue LISA/LISA e-journal 5.4 (2007): 206–219.

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    Outlines Corelli’s elaboration and embellishment of the biblical account of the crucifixion and resurrection in Barabbas. An instructive account of how Corelli’s interventions are linked to debates about the authenticity of the Scriptures in 19th-century biblical criticism. Available in English and French.

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  • Willburn, Sarah. “The Savage Magnet: Racialization of the Occult Body in Late Victorian Fiction.” Women’s Writing 15.3 (2008): 436–453.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080802444892Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Counters the prevailing criticism that links women with occult power in 19th-century discourse, arguing that race is a more crucial factor. Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds figures alongside works by Florence Marryat and Cora Linn Daniels in Willburn’s discussion.

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Gothic Romance

While early Corelli scholarship was largely driven by cultural studies approaches, increasingly literary approaches are gaining ground as scholars begin to engage more seriously with Corelli’s literary aesthetic. The work falling in this category is part of this overall interest in its consideration of Corelli within a tradition of gothic literature. Davison 2010 and Guest 2005 are exemplary in this respect, situating Corelli’s work within a high cultural literary tradition and accounting for the seriousness of its engagement with aesthetic and cultural forms and ideas. Though their claims are not as large, Fisher 2006, Hartnell 2006, and Siebers 2006 also explore Corelli’s links to the gothic tradition in their consideration of particular themes and elements in her work.

  • Davison, Carol Margaret. “‘Houses of Voluntary Bondage’: Theorizing the Nineteenth Century Gothic Pharmography.” Gothic Studies 12.1 (2010): 68–85.

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    Complex and sophisticated argument that figures Wormwood as the “apogee” of a body of 19th-century drug/alcohol narratives or “Gothic pharmographies.” A cogent historical contextualization of the genre sets the stage for a focus on Corelli’s manipulation of the form and its exemplification of fin-de-siècle cultural anxieties about degeneration and decline.

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  • Fisher, Benjamin F. “Marie Corelli’s Barabbas, The Sorrows of Satan and Generic Transition.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 304–320.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527402Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Thoughtful analysis of Corelli’s appropriation and adaptation of gothic tropes of light and dark in representing the psychological and symbolic aspects of characters. Situates Corelli within a tradition of the gothic going back to the 18th century and extending to modern and contemporary romance-crime fiction.

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  • Guest, Kristen. “Rewriting Faust: Marie Corelli’s Female Tragedy.” VIJ: Victorians Institute Journal 33 (2005): 149–177.

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    Challenges Felski 1995 (see Victorian and Edwardian Popular Literature and Culture). Examines her work in relation to the high cultural genre of tragedy and male gothic, arguing that Corelli refigures the genre to celebrate feminine “self-sacrifice and love” over masculine “self-interest and acquisitiveness” in her creation of a feminized “popular sublime.”

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  • Hartnell, Elaine M. “Morals and Metaphysics: Marie Corelli, Religion and the Gothic.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 284–303.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527436Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Situates Corelli’s work within the genre of the gothic as defined by Angela Carter, concluding that while Corelli’s work provokes unease in ways expected in gothic literature, it deals with the sacred rather than the profane.

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  • Siebers, Alisha. “Marie Corelli’s Magnetic Revitalizing Power.” In Victorian Literary Mesmerism. Edited by Catherine Wynne, 183–202. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.

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    Explores mesmerism in A Romance of Two Worlds, considering, in particular, how it is thematized in gothic terms: as a form of imprisonment, a relinquishment of will, and loss of self.

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Authorship and the Literary Field

The rise of book history and print culture studies and the influence of Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the literary field have had an impact on Corelli scholarship. Feltes 1993 is a seminal work on the emergence of a capitalist mode of literary production in the fin-de-siècle and uses Corelli’s The Sorrows of Satan as a central case study, though the author is more concerned with the overarching system than with the particularities of Corelli’s positioning within the literary field. In the chapters “Aestheticism in Suburbia” and “The Queen of Bestsellers and the Culture of Celebrity,” Federico 2000, by contrast, offers a detailed consideration of Corelli’s struggles to assert her authority in the literary field of her day and her attempts to control her image in the context of the emergence of celebrity culture. Like Federico 2000, Hammond 2006 views Corelli’s situation as a woman author from a feminist perspective, though her approach is more clearly modeled on Bourdieu’s concept of the literary field. Hammond complicates the argument in Feltes 1993 with a detailed consideration of the gendered dynamics of the fin-de-siècle literary field and its debates about realism and romance and high and popular art. Siebers 2006 is a consideration of Corelli and authorship and is focused on notions of insanity and genius as they applied to conceptions of the artist in the period.

  • Federico, Annette. Idol of Suburbia: Marie Corelli and Late Victorian Literary Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

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    “Aestheticism in Suburbia” and “The Queen of Bestsellers and the Culture of Celebrity” treat Corelli’s position within the gendered fin-de-siècle literary field and her efforts to control her image in the context of the rise of celebrity culture. Earlier versions of these chapters in Talia Shaffer and Kathy Alexis Psomiades’s Women and British Aestheticism (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999) and Nineteenth Century Studies 11 (1997) are less detailed.

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  • Feltes, N. N. Literary Capital and the Late-Victorian Novel. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993.

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    Corelli and her best-selling novel The Sorrows of Satan figure as a case study in this materialist and empirical analysis of the late-Victorian publishing field. Figures the emergence of a patriarchal/capitalist literary mode of production in terms of the romance/realism debates of the 1880s and 1890s.

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  • Hammond, Mary. Reading, Publishing and the Formation of Literary Taste in England, 1880–1914. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    Chapter on Corelli and Hall Caine fruitfully compares their careers in the context of the “critical dichotomy of the 1880s and 1890s between male/realism/art and female/romance/popular.” Combines Bourdieuian and feminist approaches to compare how these writers were defined by and sought to resist literary ideologies that diminished their status.

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  • Siebers, Alisha. “The Genius in Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 246–266.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527535Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Cogent consideration of the evolution of Corelli’s thinking about artistic genius, demonstrating how she revises and resists Romantic notions of inspired genius and fin-de-siècle associations of genius with insanity. Examines these ideas in A Romance of Two Worlds, Ardath, The Sorrows of Satan, and in Corelli’s own career.

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Nation and Empire

Postcolonial approaches to Corelli are concerned with two main issues: her position in relationship to colonialism and concerns about empire and her reception in the colonies. There is a tension between these two strands of scholarship: although Corelli exhibits typical late-Victorian colonialist attitudes to empire, she was hugely popular in the colonies, especially Africa and India. Willburn 2008, Crozier-De Rosa 2009, Felski 1995, Galvan 2010, and Franklin 2003 exemplify the former approach, reading Corelli’s work in the context of British anxieties in this period. Specifically, Felski 1995, Willburn 2008, Galvan 2010, and Franklin 2003 focus on the British fascination with and fear of the foreign exotic “other,” while Crozier-De Rosa 2009 is interested in how, on the home front, the New Woman threatened Britain’s imperial power. Representing the other side of scholarship on Corelli in a colonial context, Bhattachayra 2007 and Newell 2002 document the phenomenal popularity of Corelli in India and Africa, and offer compelling evidence for how she might be made to speak to the immediate social, cultural, and national/nationalist interests of colonial readers.

  • Bhattacharya, Prodosh. “The Reception of Marie Corelli in India.” In New Readings in the Literature of British India, c.1780–1947. Edited by Shafquat Towheed, 219–244. Stuttgart, Germany: Ibidem, 2007.

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    Fascinating insight into Corelli’s popularity in India through the first half of the 20th century that closely examines translations of her work in various Indian languages. Describes a series of adaptations, appropriations, abridgements, censorings, and additions and their ideological implications in an Indian cultural context. Appendix includes list of translations.

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  • Crozier-De Rosa, Sharon. “Marie Corelli’s British New Woman: A Threat to Empire?” History of the Family 14.4 (2009): 416–429.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.hisfam.2009.04.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examination of the representation of the New Woman in Corelli’s fiction and nonfiction with an emphasis on how such figures were a threat to Britain’s domestic and imperial mission. Supported by a solid historical contextualization, as well as comparisons with works of fiction by colonial New Woman writers.

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  • Felski, Rita. The Gender of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    A chapter of this book argues that Corelli’s interest in exoticism functions as another manifestation of the “popular sublime”: a means of transcending mundane everyday life. For Felski, however, the promised escape is not realized, as Corelli’s texts simply reaffirm existing ideologies of gender and race.

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  • Franklin, J. J. “The Counter-Invasion of Britain by Buddhism in Marie Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds and H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She.” Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1 (2003): 19–42.

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    Situates Corelli’s novel within a broader 19th-century cultural discourse that reflected British anxiety about a counter-invasion of the West by the East. Includes a close examination of Corelli’s representation of Buddhism and Buddhist principles in A Romance of Two Worlds.

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  • Galvan, Jill. “Securing the line: Automatism and cross-cultural encounters in late Victorian Gothic fiction.” In The Sympathetic Medium: Feminine Channeling, The Occult, and Communication Technologies, 1859–1919. By Jill Galvan, 61–98. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

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    Galvan’s chapter on Corelli discusses Corelli’s development of a feminist form of Christian spiritualism and includes a cogent analysis of Corelli’s ambivalent representation of the East in A Romance of Two Worlds and The Soul of Lilith. An earlier version of this article appears in Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1.

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  • Newell, Stephanie. Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana: How to Play the Game of Life. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2002.

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    Chapter on Corelli is an important counter to Masters’s (see Masters 1978 cited under Biography) claim that Corelli was foisted on colonial readers. Contrasts the seriousness with which she is treated in West Africa with her critical reputation in Britain. Accounts for how The Sorrows of Satan appealed to pro-colonial and dissident readers.

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  • Willburn, Sarah. “The Savage Magnet: Racialization of the Occult Body in Late Victorian Fiction.” Women’s Writing 15.3 (2008): 436–453.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080802444892Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the links between imperialist and occult discourse in fin-de-siècle literature, including Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds. Though the novel offers an “exoticized” rather than explicitly racist representation of the foreign mystic, the narrative nevertheless “reinforc[es] Victorian concepts of white racial and cultural ascendancy” (p. 436).

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Feminism and Women’s Writing

Corelli’s contradictory position regarding feminism has attracted considerable scholarly attention. Casey 1992 is the seminal work in this respect, laying the groundwork with a solid overview of the topic, while Federico 2000 provides a more in-depth and theorized account of Corelli’s feminism. Subsequent criticism, greatly indebted to Casey 1992, has developed and expanded upon this work through more detailed considerations of particular themes or texts. Galvan 2010, for example, considers how Corelli’s spiritualist religious views inform a particular notion of feminism. Crozier-De Rosa 2009, meanwhile, considers the intersection between Corelli’s feminism and her views of Empire. Della Cagna 2006 charts new ground in the discussion of Corelli’s feminism, suggesting how Corelli’s ideal notion of womanhood is modeled after Queen Victoria, a figure who clearly embodied and sought to mediate conflicting gender roles. Those interested in similar historicist approaches to issues of feminism and late-Victorian and Edwardian culture might also fruitfully take up many of the references in Victorian and Edwardian Popular Literature and Culture. In addition to this historicist work, many critics are interested in exploring the issue of feminist aesthetics in Corelli’s writings. While Felski’s treatment (Felski 1995) of Corelli’s popular feminine sublime is more thematic in approach, Federico 2000, Kuehn 2006, and Kuehn 2004 (see Critical Scholarship) are particularly concerned with the stylistic and narrative strategies of her confessional writing. Guest 2005, meanwhile, demonstrates the ways in which Corelli makes thematic and formal interventions in order to feminize the Faust myth.

  • Casey, Janet Galigani. “Marie Corelli and Fin De Siècle Feminism.” English Literature in Transition 1880–1920 35.2 (1992): 163–178.

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    First feminist consideration of Corelli. Useful overview of her positions on gender, marriage, and suffrage in her fiction and nonfiction works. Identifies Corelli’s contradictory beliefs as typical for women “confronted at once with the suffragette movement and the decline of the feminine ideal as perceived in the Victorian age” (p.164).

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  • Crozier-De Rosa, Sharon. “Marie Corelli’s British New Woman: A Threat to Empire?” History of the Family 14.4 (2009): 416–429.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.hisfam.2009.04.003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of Corelli’s relationship to feminism, especially the late-Victorian and Edwardian figure of the New Woman, within the context of empire and Britain’s imperial mission. Like Casey, Crozier-De Rosa surveys a range of Corelli’s fiction and nonfiction and characterizes Corelli’s views toward feminism as contradictory.

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  • Della Cagna, Lea. “‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’. Elizabeth I and Victoria: The Virgin Queen and the Mother Queen.” Textus: English Studies in Italy 19.2 (2006): 371–386.

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    Part of this essay examines Corelli’s tribute to Queen Victoria in The Passing of a Great Queen. Della Cagna argues that Corelli’s representation of the Queen functions as a sort of manual of ideal Victorian womanhood in which motherhood constitutes woman’s authority, power, and superiority to men.

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  • Federico, Annette. “Ardor of the Pen” and “The Weltanschauung of Marie Corelli.” In Idol of Suburbia: Marie Corelli and Late Victorian Literary Culture. By Annette Federico, 94–161. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

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    Two chapters concern Corelli’s development of a feminist aesthetic, the basis of this aesthetic, and its contradictions as demonstrated in her correspondence, fiction, nonfiction, and confessional writing. The earlier version of “The Ardor of the Pen” in Nicola Diane Thompson’s Victorian Women Writers and the Woman Question (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999) is less detailed.

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  • Felski, Rita. The Gender of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.

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    Contains a chapter that covers aspects of Corelli’s representations of women and her feminist aesthetic. Explores her deployment of the increasingly feminized genre of melodrama and considers how her contradictory views of women’s gender roles affect her representation of romantic love as an aspect of the “popular sublime.”

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  • Galvan, Jill. “Securing the line: Automatism and cross-cultural encounters in late Victorian Gothic fiction.” In The Sympathetic Medium: Feminine Channeling, The Occult, and Communication Technologies, 1859–1919. By Jill Galvan, 61–98. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

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    Galvan’s chapter on Corelli compellingly argues that Corelli appropriates and adapts notions of channeling and female mediumship to challenge contemporary notions of femininity and to posit a particular form of feminism. An earlier version appears in Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1.

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  • Guest, Kristen. “Rewriting Faust: Marie Corelli’s Female Tragedy.” VIJ: Victorians Institute Journal 33 (2005): 149–177.

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    An insightful examination of Corelli’s feminist reformulation of the Faust myth in which female self-sacrifice is privileged over Faustian will-to-power. Guest considers how this theme is manifested in contradictory ways in The Sorrows of Satan, The Soul of Lilith, and in Corelli’s own career.

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  • Kuehn, Julia. “‘Je t’Aime . . . Moi Non Plus’: Deconstructing Love in Open Confession to a Man from a Woman.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 225–245.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527493Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws on a range of feminist theories about sentimental romance, situating its textual analysis of Open Confession within Corelli’s larger body of work, literary modernism, and 20th-century romance best sellers. Kuehn 2004 (see Critical Scholarship) is another excellent source for considering Corelli’s feminine aesthetic of the sublime, though it is less widely available.

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Victorian and Edwardian Popular Literature and Culture

The scholarship in this field comprises an eclectic range of work that considers the popular and/or populist aspects of Corelli’s work in the context of late-Victorian and Edwardian culture. Federico 2000, with a literary/biographical approach, and Hammond 2006, with a publishing history–oriented focus, fruitfully take up Corelli’s position as a popular woman writer in the context of the gendered literary field of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Felski 1995 and Kuehn 2008, meanwhile, look to explain Corelli’s popular aesthetic, with Felski 1995 offering a broader overview of Corelli’s “popular sublime” and Kuehn 2008 refining this concept to consider more fully the gendered dynamics of this aesthetic. MacLeod 2000, Ferguson 2006, and Moody 2006 take up different aspects of Corelli’s work in the context of specific popular fin-de-siècle discourses. Moody attributes Corelli’s popularity to her religious eclecticism; MacLeod locates Corelli’s Wormwood and The Sorrows of Satan within fin-de-siècle Francophobic discourse; while Ferguson contributes a new twist to Corelli studies with her focus on Corelli’s endorsement of a populist position within late-Victorian discourses around language and linguistics. Crozier-De Rosa 2010, meanwhile, uses Corelli’s works alongside those of Arnold Bennett, as part of a historical project to understand the mentalités of middle-class women of that period.

  • Crozier-De Rosa, Sharon. The Middle-Class Novels of Arnold Bennett and Marie Corelli: Realising the Ideals and Emotions of Late Victorian Women. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2010.

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    Crozier-De Rosa, a historian, uses these authors as a lens through which to construct the mentalités and emotional lives of women, in particular their views on education, domesticity, work, religion, and romance and sexuality. Because Corelli’s novels are exploited in the service of a historical argument, their treatment lacks complexity.

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  • Federico, Annette R. Idol of Suburbia: Marie Corelli and Late-Victorian Literary Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

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    The chapter “Aestheticism in Suburbia” is a finely articulated argument about the intersections between high art and mass culture in aestheticism, decadence, and New Woman fiction. Explores how Corelli addressed the competing claims of art, popular readership, and the commercial market. Focuses on Wormwood and The Sorrows of Satan. An earlier version appeared as “Marie Corelli: Aestheticism in Suburbia” in Women and British Aestheticism (1999).

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  • Felski, Rita. “Love, God, and the Orient: Reading the Popular Sublime.” In The Gender of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995. By Rita Felski, 115–144.

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    Highly influential examination of the interaction between discourses of gender and modernity that contains a finely nuanced consideration of Corelli’s work. The chapter on Corelli argues that she negotiates the contradictions of modernity through a development of a “popular sublime,” that exploits melodrama, sentimental romance, spiritualism, and exoticism.

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  • Ferguson, Christine. Language, Science and Popular Fiction in the Victorian Fin de Siècle. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.

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    A chapter focuses on how Corelli’s work, in particular The Sorrows of Satan, is informed by late-Victorian linguistic, cultural, and anthropological debates about the decline of language. Corelli is said to endorse a populist position that privileges the plain speaking of the masses over the excesses of aristocratic and modern speech.

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  • Hammond, Mary. Reading, Publishing and the Formation of Literary Taste in England, 1880–1914. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    Chapter on Corelli and Hall Caine considers how these authors negotiate the emerging dichotomies between “male/realism/art and female/romance/popular” in the fin-de-siècle literary field. Combines Bourdieuian and feminist approaches to compare how these writers were defined by and sought to resist literary ideologies that discredited popular writers.

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  • Kuehn, Julia. “The Strategies of the Popular Novel: Marie Corelli’s Feminine Sublime and the Aesthetic of the Dream.” Journal of Popular Culture 41.6 (2008): 975–993.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5931.2008.00560.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Serious consideration of narrative strategies that uses Ardath as a broadly representative example of Corelli’s work. Extends and complicates Felski 1995’s consideration of Corelli’s development of the “popular sublime,” with attention to the gendered aspects of her formulation. Reads Corelli’s adaptation of the genre of romance within a psychoanalytic framework.

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  • MacLeod, Kirsten. “Marie Corelli and Fin-de-Siècle Francophobia: The Absinthe Trail of French Art.” English Literature in Transition 1880–1920 43.1 (2000): 66–82.

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    Focusing on Wormwood and The Sorrows of Satan, MacLeod discusses Corelli’s intervention in fin-de-siècle Francophobic discourses centered on social and cultural decline.

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  • Moody, Nickianne. “Moral Uncertainty and the Afterlife: Explaining the Popularity of Marie Corelli’s Early Novels.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 188–205.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527501Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the relationship between Corelli’s religious eclecticism and her phenomenal popularity. Corelli’s eclecticism, which drew on topical religious issues and debates, Moody argues, enabled readers from “many and contrasting subject positions” to enjoy her work. Works considered include The Sorrows of Satan, The Murder of Delicia, Ardath, The Soul of Lilith, and Thelma.

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Literary Modernism

Works in this field of Corelli scholarship bring a nuanced understanding to the question of Corelli’s popular style and appeal by considering her relationship to and influence on modernism and modernist writers. Kershner 1994, the first to consider this topic in depth, is a good starting point, as it provides a broad outline of the main features of Corelli’s engagement with modernity. Kuehn 2004, Hipsky 2006, and Schaffer 2008 develop some of the broader claims made by Kershner 1994 in their close analyses of the modernism of particular Corelli texts. Kershner 1989, Jones 2002, and Weintraub 2011 (under The Sorrows of Satan), meanwhile, provide compelling evidence of the influence of Corelli on high modernist figures, specifically James Joyce, Joseph Conrad and Ford Maddox Hueffer, and George Bernard Shaw. Those interested in this aspect of more direct literary influence may also wish to consult Weintraub 2011 (see The Sorrows of Satan) for the discussion of George Bernard Shaw’s borrowings from Corelli.

  • Hipsky, Martin. “The Corellian Romance Contra Modernity: The Treasure of Heaven and Innocent.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 206–224.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527469Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates the interplay of romance, realism, and emerging modernism in The Treasure of Heaven and Innocent, arguing that the novels represent “the revenge of the traditional romance on turn-of-the century realism” while simultaneously anticipating “emergent” high modernist “attitudes towards cultural modernity.”

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  • Jones, Susan. “‘Creatures of Our Light Literature’: The Problem of Genre in the Inheritors and Marie Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds.” Conradiana: A Journal of Joseph Conrad Studies 34.1–2 (2002): 107–121.

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    Comparison of Corelli with the avant-garde of Joseph Conrad and Ford Maddox Hueffer that offers a challenge to the traditional division between the high and the popular in the context of modernism. Jones identifies important convergences between the texts in terms of their treatment of science within a romance tradition.

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  • Kershner, R. B. “Joyce and Popular Literature: The Case of Corelli.” In James Joyce and His Contemporaries. Edited by Diana A. Ben-Merre and Maureen Murphy, 52–58. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1989.

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    A basic but useful overview of Joyce’s interest in popular culture and his indebtedness to Corelli. Kershner compares the hero of The Sorrows of Satan, Geoffrey Tempest, to Stephen Daedalus in Ulysses, and the authors to each other, concluding that the only thing that “separated [Corelli and Joyce] was art.”

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  • Kershner, R. B. “Modernism’s Mirror: The Sorrows of Marie Corelli.” In Transforming Genres: New Approaches to British Fiction of the 1890s. Edited by Nikki-Lee Manos and Meri-Jane Rochelson, 67–86. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

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    A concise consideration of Corelli’s embodiment of the ideological contradictions of her time with respect to spirituality, sexuality, and feminism. The strengths of Kershner’s analysis, however, lie in his consideration of the relationship between Corelli and high modernist writers and his positioning of her as a “modernist hybrid.”

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  • Kuehn, Julia. Glorious Vulgarity: Marie Corelli’s Feminine Sublime in a Popular Context. Berlin: Logos, 2004.

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    A sophisticated reevaluation of Corelli’s aesthetic. In its application of theories of gender, genre, the mass-market, the sublime, and psychoanalysis this study contributes to an understanding of Corelli as an important proto-modernist writer. Not widely available in academic libraries.

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  • Schaffer, Talia. “Modernist Mental States and Marie Corelli’s Wormwood.” Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies 4.2 (2008).

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    Schaffer makes a compelling argument that positions Wormwood as a proto-modernist novel, considering its exploration of decadence, physiological psychology, and subjectivity.

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A Romance of Two Worlds

Much of the work on this first Corelli novel is centered on her spiritual and religious eclecticism. Hallim 2006 offers a clear delineation of Corelli’s “Electric Creed,” pointing to its origins in A Romance of Two Worlds and tracing its development in later works. Franklin 2003 is useful for its contextualization of Corelli’s hybrid spirituality within a broader context of the Victorian ambivalence toward Buddhism and the East, a relationship also traced by Willburn 2008 in that more text-focused consideration of the novel. Willburn 2008 is also notable for the way it complicates the feminist-inflected considerations of Corelli’s religious eclecticism as outlined in Galvan 2010 and Siebers 2006a and Siebers 2006b, which focus in particular on the gendered dynamics of Corelli’s depiction of spiritualism, mesmeric power, and channeling. In contrast to this focus on themes and representations of spirituality, Jones 2002 focuses on the hybrid generic nature of the text, situating it within the tradition of the “scientific romance.”

  • Franklin, J. J. “The Counter-Invasion of Britain by Buddhism in Marie Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds and H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She.” Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1 (2003): 19–42.

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    Argues in part that in A Romance of Two Worlds Corelli fashions a modern, hybrid form of Christianity by simultaneously attacking and appropriating aspects of spiritualism, science, market capitalism, and Buddhism. Considers the representation of contrasting Buddhist and Christian notions of the relationship between suffering and desire in the novel.

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  • Galvan, Jill. “Securing the line: Automatism and cross-cultural encounters in late Victorian Gothic fiction.” In The Sympathetic Medium: Feminine Channeling, The Occult, and Communication Technologies, 1859–1919. By Jill Galvan, 61–98. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

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    Considers Corelli’s construction of the heroine-narrator as a spiritual channel and Christ-like moral message-bearer. This discussion is situated within a larger argument about Corelli’s feminist-inflected Christian spiritualism that also takes up The Soul of Lilith and Corelli’s own construction of herself as an artist-seer. An earlier version of this article appears in Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1.

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  • Hallim, Robyn. “Marie Corelli’s Best-Selling Electric Creed.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 267–283.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527428Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this analysis of Corelli’s development of an “Electric Creed”—a hybrid theology drawing on science, occultism, spiritualism, and orthodox Christianity—A Romance of Two Worlds figures as the first major expostulation of this theory.

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  • Jones, Susan. “‘Creatures of Our Light Literature’: The Problem of Genre in the Inheritors and Marie Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds.” Conradiana: A Journal of Joseph Conrad Studies 34.1–2 (2002): 107–121.

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    A convincing and compelling comparison of these works in terms of their relationship to the tradition of scientific romance and their rootedness in conservative and traditionalist values and ideologies.

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  • Siebers, Alisha. “The Genius in Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006a): 246–266.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527535Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Articulates Corelli’s theory of genius in A Romance of Two Worlds as a Christian variation on the Romantic notion of inspired genius, which is problematized because under this notion the artist is a conduit rather than originator. Argues that Corelli revises and develops her ideas in Ardath and later works.

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  • Siebers, Alisha. “Marie Corelli’s Magnetic Revitalizing Power.” In Victorian Literary Mesmerism. Edited by Catherine Wynne, 183–202. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006b.

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    Explores the novel’s role in establishing Corelli’s “persona as an inspired conduit of heavenly ideals” and its examination of the contradictions of mesmeric power. Argues that Corelli demonstrates that hypnotism empowers and imprisons, grants authority, and erases selfhood and that these representations reflect ambivalence about her spiritual authority as a writer.

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  • Willburn, Sarah. “The Savage Magnet: Racialization of the Occult Body in Late Victorian Fiction.” Women’s Writing 15.3 (2008): 436–453.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080802444892Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In its discussion of Corelli’s A Romance of Two Worlds, this essay compares the representation of male and female foreign mystics with the white British protagonist who is revitalized by a spiritual journey that is figured in racialized and imperialist terms.

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Wormwood

Wormwood has proved particularly appealing to scholars for its engagement with the emerging literary debates surrounding realism, naturalism, decadence, and modernism. The introduction to Corelli 2004 provides a solid framework for understanding the novel’s position within this context in a scholarly edition of the text suitable for students and teachers. Federico 2000 covers much of the same territory but with a more theoretical approach. MacLeod 2000 offers a consideration of the literary debates in the broader context of British Francophobia in the fin-de-siècle, while Talairach-Vielmas 2006 is concerned with the intersection between Corelli’s critique of naturalism and her celebration of the female artist. Davison 2010 and Schaffer 2008 provide excellent literary historical frameworks for understanding the novel: Davison 2010 looks back, situating the novel in the tradition of Romantic and Victorian “gothic pharmographies”; Schaffer 2008, by contrast, looks forward, reading Wormwood as a “proto-Modernist” text in thematic and stylistic terms.

  • Corelli, Marie. Wormwood. Introduction by Kirsten MacLeod. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2004.

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    The introduction to this scholarly edition of Wormwood provides crucial contextualization of the novel’s themes in relation to contemporary debates about realism, naturalism, decadence, degeneration, and absinthism. Also useful is its account of the critical reception of the novel.

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  • Davison, Carol Margaret. “‘Houses of Voluntary Bondage’: Theorizing the Nineteenth Century Gothic Pharmography.” Gothic Studies 12.1 (2010): 68–85.

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    A historically contextualized study of the novel that describes its relationship to the traditions of the urban gothic, confessional narrative, sensation fiction, temperance novel, and roman feuilleton and its contribution to a body of “gothic pharmographies” of the Romantic and Victorian eras.

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  • Federico, Annette. Idol of Suburbia: Marie Corelli and Late Victorian Literary Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

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    Within the context of a broader discussion about Corelli’s position within the fin-de-siècle literary field, Federico devotes a chapter to exploring the ambivalent status of Wormwood as both a decadent and counter-decadent novel, arguing that, ultimately, it serves as an “example of middle-class curiosity about and appropriations of decadence” (p. 72). A less-detailed version of this chapter appears in Women and British Aestheticism (1999).

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  • MacLeod, Kirsten. “Marie Corelli and Fin-de-Siècle Francophobia: The Absinthe Trail of French Art.” English Literature in Transition (1880–1920) 43.1 (2000): 66–82.

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    In its consideration of Wormwood, this article focuses on the tensions inherent in Corelli’s exploitation of the tropes of French realism in her anti-realist text. It also considers how the novel is situated within larger Francophobic cultural discourse of the period.

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  • Schaffer, Talia. “Modernist Mental States and Marie Corelli’s Wormwood.” Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies 4.2 (2008).

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    An extension of the work of Federico 2000, MacLeod 2000, and Corelli 2004 on the novel’s relationship to fin-de-siècle decadence; Schaffer argues for its importance as an experimental avant-garde consideration of emerging modernist notions of subjectivity, psychology, and style.

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  • Talairach-Vielmas, Laurence. “Portrait de l’artiste en jeune femme: Wormwood (1890) de Marie Corelli.” Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens 63 (2006): 447–462.

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    Article in French arguing that Corelli exploits and critiques the masculine genre of naturalism so as to argue for the supremacy of the female artist figure, as represented in the character Héloïse and in her own role as author of the novel.

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The Sorrows of Satan

Corelli’s Faustian The Sorrows of Satan is one of the more popular of Corelli’s works among scholars and, as the selection of work indicates, is amenable to a number of approaches and topics: the gothic, readership, late-Victorian notions of authorship, language and linguistics, and literary influence. Federico 2000 is excellent on the novel and its relationship to Corelli’s position within the late-Victorian literary field, while Siebers 2006 takes up the particular aspect of artistic genius. Weintraub 2011, by contrast, is interested more specifically in the question of influence, notably Shaw’s views of and borrowings from Corelli’s novel for his own work. In terms of its generic and aesthetic qualities, Fisher 2006 and Guest 2005 provide coherent arguments about Corelli’s interventions in and adaptations of the gothic. Ferguson 2006, meanwhile, provides a compelling analysis that links aesthetic and generic issues of the novel to the larger cultural context, notably anxieties about language in this period. Finally, Newell 2002 gets at the important question of Corelli’s readership, explaining how and why Corelli appealed to a West African readership through the colonial period and beyond.

  • Federico, Annette. Idol of Suburbia: Marie Corelli and Late-Victorian Literary Culture. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

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    Reads The Sorrows of Satan in the context of Corelli’s engagement with and positioning within the fin-de-siècle literary field, especially with respect to the commercialization of art and the decadent and New Woman movements (pp. 75–85). A less-detailed version of this essay appears in Women and British Aestheticism (1999).

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  • Ferguson, Christine. Language, Science and Popular Fiction in the Victorian Fin-de-Siècle. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.

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    Contains a complex chapter on Corelli’s engagement with debates about the debasement of language that draws on The Sorrows of Satan. Posits that Corelli asserts the primacy of the literary sensibilities of the masses, endorses the romance as a privileged genre, and idealizes a transcendent state of being beyond language.

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  • Fisher, Benjamin F. “Marie Corelli’s Barabbas, The Sorrows of Satan and Generic Transition.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 304–320.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527402Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In its discussion of The Sorrows of Satan, the article focuses on Corelli’s adaptation of earlier 19th-century gothic character types to suit the ennui-ridden 1890s.

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  • Guest, Kristen. “Rewriting Faust: Marie Corelli’s Female Tragedy.” VIJ: Victorians Institute Journal 33 (2005): 149–177.

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    Compares the Faustian theme in Corelli’s novels The Soul of Lilith and The Sorrows of Satan, arguing that Corelli uses this theme to critique male ambition and patriarchy and to privilege the superiority of the self-sacrificing spiritualized woman.

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  • Newell, Stephanie. Literary Culture in Colonial Ghana: How to Play the Game of Life. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2002.

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    In the absence of documentary evidence about “historical” West African readers of Corelli circa 1900–1950, Newell’s chapter on Corelli convincingly interprets the novel in terms of aesthetic and moral values that would have appealed to West Africans across the long period of its popularity.

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  • Siebers, Alisha. “The Genius in Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self.” Women’s Writing 13.2 (2006): 246–266.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699080500527535Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Siebers posits The Sorrows of Satan as the culmination of Corelli’s theorizations about artistic genius. In the novel, the character Mavis Clare represents the Corellian ideal of the artist who perfectly combines asceticism and genius.

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  • Weintraub, Stanley. “Marie Corelli’s Satan and Don Juan in Hell.” English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920 54.2 (2011): 165–173.

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    Demonstrates Shaw’s knowledge of Corelli’s work and his considerable borrowings from The Sorrows of Satan in Don Juan in Hell.

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LAST MODIFIED: 03/23/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199799558-0005

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