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  You are in: Home > Cultural & Social Studies > The Architectural Novel  

The Architectural Novel
The Construction of National Identities in 19th Century England and France
William Ainsworth, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas

Nicola Minott-Ahl

Nicola Minott-Ahl is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Media & Society Program at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She teaches British literature of the long nineteenth century and writes on film adaptation, post-Revolutionary historiography, historical fiction, and architecture. She has written and published on Jane Austen, William Thackeray, William Ainsworth, Victor Hugo, and the architectural novel. Her article “Does Jane Austen Write Screenplays?” is forthcoming in the Quarterly Review of Film and Video.


The formation of European national identities during the 19th century through the public’s perception of public spaces and monuments – museums, battlefields, war monuments and memorials, landscapes, cityscapes, and the built environment – is a subject of keen interest to scholars in architecture, cultural studies, geography, sociology, history, art history, and environmental studies. This interest is particularly timely given the contemporary struggles in Europe and Great Britain over national identity in the face of immigration, and the economic, religious, and racial tensions it has inspired. The turn toward the meaning of landscape and architecture in the 19th century, an era of rapid change and social transition (not to mention revolution), provides lessons from history about how symbols of national identity gain their meaning, and how those meanings change.

To date, not enough attention has been paid to the important role played by popular 19th century French and British novelists in defining national identity through their treatment of the Gothic monuments to power: cathedrals, castles, and prisons. Indeed, both Ainsworth and Dumas are underestimated by contemporary literary critics. In assigning meaning to architectural symbols in an age of revolutionary change Nicola Minott-Ahl tackles the vexing problem of historical continuity at a time of profound rupture with the past by considering that narratives” written in stone did not have fixed meanings, but were floating signifiers for both past and present.

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Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
192 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
April 2013
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£47.50 / $69.95


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