By Deaglán Ó Donghaile
Dynamite novels meet intellectual modernism through the influence of terrorism. among 1880 and 1915, quite a number writers exploited terrorism's political shocks for his or her personal inventive ends. Drawing on late-Victorian 'dynamite novels' by way of authors together with Robert Louis Stevenson, Tom Greer and Robert Thynne, radical journals and papers, resembling The Irish humans, The Torch, Anarchy and Freiheit, and modernist writing from H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad to the compulsively militant modernism of Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticists, Ó Donghaile maps the political and aesthetic connections that bind the shilling shocker heavily to modernism.
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Extra info for Blasted Literature: Victorian Political Fiction and the Shock of Modernism (Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Literature)
See Frederic Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative Theory as a Socially Symbolic Act (London: Routledge, 1996), especially chap. 4, ‘Romance and Reification: Plot Construction and Ideological Closure in Joseph Conrad’. indd 22 06/01/2011 09:55 Introduction: Shock, Politics, Literature 23 30. See Barbara Arnett Melchiori, Terrorism in the Late Victorian Novel (London: Croom Helm, 1985), pp. 2–5, p. 37. 31. Jeffory A. Clymer, America’s Culture of Terrorism (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003), p.
Thus, in The Dynamiter, amateur Fenian-hunters like Edward Challoner experience counterterrorism as a process of deepening mystification and confusion. Rejecting the standard movement of the classic detection narrative – the journey towards enlightenment via exposure of the criminal’s method and motivation – Stevenson’s protagonist finally reaches the conclusion that he is dealing with an unfathomable phenomenon – the ‘great and confused war of politics’ (pp. vii) that is Irish nationalism. Unlike the material clues that inform the rational judgement of other fictional detectives (for example, Doyle’s vividly rendered imperial commodities), the information that Challoner uncovers while hunting for Fenian bombers serves only to disengage his mind from the source of these political troubles.
59). indd 29 06/01/2011 09:55 30 Blasted Literature of identity as, by uncovering and becoming implicated in the Fenian conspiracy, they become as amorphous as the fluid and indistinct urban elements that Stevenson describes as composing the metropolis. Identity is never secure and often untrustworthy within this environment, and the friends take part in a series of quest adventures of the type usually associated in contemporary popular fiction with distant colonial exploits. 12 Stevenson’s imperial logic exploits domestic fear and fascination with the colonised Other, placing the Irish bomber in the same popular imaginative territory as more exotic villains from further afield, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s murderous pigmy, Tonga, or H.