My thesis investigates the posthumous editing of Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Oscar Wilde. It will read the memorials and monuments dedicated to these authors, and the alterations that have been imposed on these sites from conception to modern day, alongside the posthumous editing of their texts.
The term ‘memorialise’ contains a formal history of how authorial figures have been preserved. Rather than further exploring this formal history, my thesis demonstrates its relevance by exploring the current active processes of authorial memorialisation. By reading the editing of memorials in parallel to the editing of the author’s textual corpus, I will provide an innovative focus on the displacement of the authorial voice in audiobooks alongside the displacement of the author’s body in a changing heritage sector. I contend that the changing heritage sector emphasis on experience provides new ways to understand the sacralisation and de-sacrilisation of canonical authors. The decision to focus on Dickens, Eliot and Wilde provides this focus on the canon as well as facilitating further questions in relation to gender, sex, exile and celebrity.
By focusing my study of memorialisation on graves and audiobooks, two forms that are both overlooked in scholarship on literary afterlives, I interrogate the current theoretical shortcomings of heritage studies. Both graves and literature fail to sit comfortably within the binary of material and immaterial heritage that is enforced by current scholarship. By questioning current approaches to heritage studies I aim to produce paradigm-shifting work, inflected by what we know of literary memorialisation. This thesis makes a significant, interdisciplinary contribution to the growing fields of research on material culture and celebrity, introducing a new approach to heritage studies. By exploring canonical heritage through the live practise-based questions necessitated by this thesis, this project will contribute to ongoing academic and non-academic developments and partnerships.