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An Apocalyptic yet Abject “Jubilee” Narrative in George Robert Gissing’s In the Year of Jubilee: Mobility, Restoration, and Materiality

Susan Smith Nash


George Robert Gissing’s In the Year of Jubilee (1894) brings together complex, contradictory and ultimately subversive views of late Victorian society, where social mobility and class, property, women’s rights, marriage, education, commerce, and advertising are problematized. Further, with the dramatic rate of social, economic, and political change that resulted from the Industrial Revolution, new banking and sources of capital, old ways of being and thinking simply cannot keep pace, resulting in the emergence of apocalyptic narratives on many fronts. Needless to say, the idea of "jubilee" is more or less antithetical to the idea of apocalypse, but ironically, Gissing's work is more informed by apocalypse and apocalyptic narratives than "jubilee" whether the concept of jubilee refers to liberation or an affirmation of monarchal reign. Gissing's "jubilee" juxtaposes self-congratulatory rhetoric (Victorian senses of self-actualization) with an underlying nihilism, particularly for women and those of lower classes. The fact that some of the women are able to break free and reinvent their worlds by means of education and a reinvented sense of self further reinforces the notion of apocalypse, particularly in the destruction of the “known” world and the emergence of a new one, essentially a “new heaven and earth.” The goal of this analysis is to conduct an analysis of Gissing’s In the Year of Jubilee and to demonstrate how the core narratives in the text contain elements of the apocalyptic narrative. In doing so, one object is to gain an understanding of how Gissing uses the abject jubilee (or apocalyptic) narrative in order to explore the social relationships and psychological states of the characters, and to use them to make certain observations and commentaries on the state of English society, the impact of industrialization, new technologies and urban sprawl, and the realities of social class and mobility (or lack of upward mobility) in late Victorian England.


George Robert Gissing; Victorian England; Victorian Literature; Literary Criticism; Jubilee; Apocalyptic Narratives; Women In Literature; Social Mobility; Social Novel

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