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By Accident or DesignWriting the Victorian Metropolis$
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Paul Fyfe

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732334.001.0001

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Chaos and Connections on the Victorian Railway

Chaos and Connections on the Victorian Railway

(p.170) 5 Chaos and Connections on the Victorian Railway
By Accident or Design

Paul Fyfe

Oxford University Press

In the decades between 1840 and 1870, nothing symbolized accidents as strongly as the railway. Just as significantly, the railway seemed an engine of metropolitan transformation, turning the country into one immense city. These reputations are linked. This chapter suggests that railway accidents became an important site of representation for the Victorians to explore the signature conceptual distortions of the metropolis. In fact, railway accidents were over-reported because of their conceptual utility in trying to understand—and paradoxically recover—what the railway had erased. Exploring contrasting attitudes about the railway in the works of Dickens, Trollope, and Eliot, this chapter responds to a prevailing Victorian critique about the railway, insisting instead on the importance of accident in a tradition of representational realism.

Keywords:   Victorian novel, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, railway accidents, crashes, realism, chaos

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