This book has been part of my professional life for some years. It was first conceived when I was writing a book on Wilkie Collins, Venturing into Unknown Waters, as part of my reflection on the fluidity of mid-Victorian society and culture. While examining Collins’s response to the challenges of modernization, I became aware of the special attention that the conceptual category of professionalism receives in sensation fiction, and subsequently I decided to explore the ideological impact of its frequent narrativization in the genre.
In pursuing this project, I have benefited from the insights and critical judgement of many friends and colleagues. My principal vote of thanks goes to Francesco Marroni for his constant support and encouragement. He discussed with me the rationale and contents of this book at length, and offered precious advice along the way. I am also greatly indebted to Allan Conrad Christensen and Gloria Lauri-Lucente for their generous and careful reading of the typescript as it was being written. Their penetrating commentaries have made it a much better book.
The following people deserve my gratitude for giving suggestions and providing resources: Silvia Antosa, Anne-Marie Beller, Roberto Garaventa, Helena Ifill, Andrew King, Paul Lewis, Andrew Mangham, Aldo Marroni, Jude V. Nixon, Ben Okri, Laurence Talairach-Vielmas, Ardel Thomas, Saverio Tomaiuolo, and Tania Zulli.
I owe special thanks to the commissioning editor at Peter Lang, Adrian Stähli, who followed this project with unmatched professionalism and commitment, and to Friederike Meisner...
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