Have you discovered Downton Abbey? If you’re in North American, it would be easy to miss. However, you must hunt down this series if the Edwardian age is of any interest to you. The show is an upstairs / downstairs -esque drama following 16 major characters amongst the family who live at Downton and the servants who work (and live) at Downton. With the subtlety of language and a well delivered line, this series keeps the viewer engaged and emotionally invested in Downton’s many characters. Written and created by the man who wrote Gosford Park, there is a level of quality that is sorely lacking in 99% of television and film today.
I have attached a “fan-made” trailer for the series that I think gives a decent synopsis of the first season’s plot (or first series, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are reading this from). The biggest “name” in the series is Maggie Smith, although Shirley McClaine will be joining the cast for Season/Series 3.
Also, the first season is set in 1912-1914 – the very END of the Edwardian age. Season/Series 2 is set during the Great War and the 3rd promises to take place in the early 1920s. Really, this is a series about the Georgian period. However, it demonstrates that the “rupture” or “break” that Modernist scholars insist happened between the 19th and 20th century is a load of hogwash. The series shows the complex social developments that have allowed so many Victorian social conventions to thrive while also showing how new technologies, media, and the political economy, changed and brought modernity to both centuries.
I prefer cultural context when examining literature and political moments. When one pays attention to the larger picture, then the believability of “ruptures” becomes the fantasy of scholars too lazy to read about the complexities of transition. The larger picture of culture is what is so appealing to me with Victorian scholarship. Looking to the long-nineteenth century, Victorianists can track the fascinating elements of change that mark literature throughout the period – from the satire of Thackeray, to the dark violence of Wuthering Heights, to impressionist experiments of Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, and Vernon Lee.
Downton Abbey illustrates these complexities with an entertaining series that is well worth the time.
If you are interested in official trailers for all three series, they can be found on You Tube. If you want to purchase them, I recommend Amazon.
Happy Friday and enjoy the weekend!