Victorian Popular Fictions 4.1 1 McDonald


“I veer about between hope and despair”:

Utopian Visions in Victorian Sensation Fiction


Tara MacDonald


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The following article questions what role the present moment can play in our scholarship on Victorian popular fiction. More specifically, it argues that the feelings of lost or strange time associated with pandemic living find resonance in Victorian sensation novels. The genre is invested in describing the state of ‘the meantime,’ a period that is a mix of stasis and progress when one waits, wastes time, or meanders. This also describes the period when one is waiting for social change to occur. The article then situates sensation fiction within Victorian ideas about utopias, focusing especially on feminist utopias.  It  suggests  that  sensation  novels  present  utopian  visions,  glimmers  or  partially  realised  forms of utopian existence, which are characterised by female opportunity, care communities, and happiness. Finally, case studies of two novels by Wilkie Collins, Man and Wife (1870) and The Fallen Leaves (1879), are presented to demonstrate how Collins crafted utopian visions for how to survive life in the meantime.



Wilkie Collins; sensation fiction; temporality; utopia; feminism; happiness

Date of Acceptance: 27 June 2022

Date of Publication: 4 July 2022

Double Blind Peer Reviewed

Recommended Citation:

MacDonald, Tara. 2022. “‘I veer about between hope and despair”: Utopian Visions in Victorian Sensation Fiction.” Victorian Popular Fictions, 4:1: 1-20. ISSN: 2632-4253 (online) DOI:

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