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Stevenson and the Art of Fiction

  • Julia Reid
Chapter
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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)

Abstract

In a cluster of essays written during the 1880s, Stevenson explored — and celebrated — the persistence of precivilized states of consciousness in the modern world, in the guise of romance, oral narratives, childhood make-believe, and the literary imagination. These essays, which appeared in popular journals and enjoyed a wide readership, mark Stevenson’s engagement with the emergent evolutionist approach to literature. A new school of psychologists, following Herbert Spencer, examined the imagination as a connection between modern individuals and humanity’s collective past. The psychologist James Sully and others used an evolutionary model of the mind to explore the affinity between dreaming, myth-making, and literary inspiration. An increasing interest in the unconscious mind also informed the writings of psychical researchers including F. W. H. Myers and the new sciences of comparative mythology and physiological aesthetics, as practised by Andrew Lang and Grant Allen. Similarly, contemporary writers often expressed evolutionist understandings of creativity: for Kipling, the artist’s imagination represented his memory of past lives and, for Wilde, ’concentrated race-experience’.1

Keywords

Organic Memory Literary Creativity Oral Narrative Unconscious Mind Mass Readership 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Finest Story in the World’ (1891), in Selected Stories, ed. Sandra Kemp (London: J. M. Dent, 1987), 54–82.Google Scholar
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  36. 49.
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  39. 53.
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    Tylor, Culture, 1: 258. Lang echoes this association between children and’savages’ in Andrew Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, 1887), 2: 325.Google Scholar
  47. 64.
    Stevenson, ‘Child’s Play’, Comhill Magazine 38 (1878), 352–9, 356–7.Google Scholar
  48. 67.
    Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘“Rosa Quo Locorum”’ (1896), in Further Memories (London: Heinemann et al., 1923), 1–8, 1.Google Scholar
  49. 69.
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    Sigmund Freud, ‘Creative Writers and Day-dreaming’ (1908), in The Freud Reader, ed. Peter Gay (London: Random House, 1995), 436–43, 438.Google Scholar
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    Stevenson, ‘The Lantern-Bearers’ (1888), in Further Memories (London: Heinemann, 1923), 29–40, 34.Google Scholar
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  54. 79.
    Lang, ‘At the Sign of the Ship’, Longman’s Magazine 11 (1887–88), 458–64, 458. Even before the article’s publication, Lang had already repeatedly and admiringly discussed Stevenson’s ideas about inspiration: ‘At the Sign of the Ship’, Longman’s Magazine 7 (1885–86), 439–48,441–2; ‘At the Sign of the Ship’, Longman’s Magazine 11 (1887–88), 234–40, 235.Google Scholar
  55. 80.
    Stevenson, ‘A Chapter on Dreams’ (1888), in Further Memories (London: Heinemann, 1923), 41–53, 43.Google Scholar
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  57. Jenny Bourne Taylor notes the similarity in’Obscure Recesses: Locating the Victorian Unconscious’, in J. B. Bullen, ed., Writing and Victorianism (London: Longman, 1997), 137–79, 155–6.Google Scholar
  58. 90.
    Elaine Showaiter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (London: Bloomsbury, 1991), 105. On Stevenson’s familiarity with psychological debates about’multiplex personality’, see Chapter 4.Google Scholar
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    F. W. H. Myers, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, 2 vols (London: Longmans and Green, 1903) 1: 14–15.Google Scholar
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© Julia Reid 2006

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