Literature and culture in the golden age of Egyptology

Dobson, Eleanor (2017). Literature and culture in the golden age of Egyptology. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis argues that a nuanced understanding of Egyptological writing across the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries can only be achieved through the consideration of the broader literary and artistic culture in which these texts were produced, and that an understanding of contemporary cultural artefacts requires a complementary awareness of Egyptology. It demonstrates the wealth of generic and material exchange between Egyptological and literary texts, and reveals cultures of mythmaking in which Egyptologists embellished their accounts, while those who collected Egyptian objects invented supernaturally-charged fictions in a bid to establish their own authority.
It establishes the inflation in Egyptian iconography not merely in textual form, but across material culture, claiming that the growing availability of texts addressing ancient Egypt encouraged linguistic experiment among writers of fiction, and the domestication of hieroglyphs. It argues that interests in Egyptology and psychology often went hand-in-hand, shifting the understanding of hieroglyphs as something ‘other’ to a product of the ‘self’. Finally, it charts the commercialisation of Egyptian iconography, increasingly connected to products that drew upon Egypt’s glamour (and the glamour of theatre and cinema), but also obverses a counterculture that harnessed ancient Egypt’s fascination and connected it to more meaningful spiritual experiences.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Other
Other Funders: The Bibliographical Society
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania


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