'Vulgar Publicity' and Problems of Privacy in Margaret Oliphant's Salem Chapel

in Critical Survey
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This article examines Margaret Oliphant's Salem Chapel (1863), the author's only foray into the sensation genre. It argues that the novel's focus on the dangers of gossip and public exposure reveals Oliphant's fraught relationship with sensationalism. Two key characters represent sensational readers and authors in the novel: Arthur Vincent and Adelaide Tufton. By emphasising their eager, voyeuristic desires for sensation, Oliphant marks such modes of reading and interpretation - and the genres which encourage such desires - as problematic. The novel also constructs gossip and public media as troubling, and thus questions sensationalism's reliance on voyeuristic thrills.

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