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Stevenson in our Times

Robert Louis Stevenson’s reputation began to undergo a certain restitution by the 1980’s.  Scholarly reference works in 1980 and 81, by Roger Swearingen and Paul Maixner respectively, began to reawaken critical interest in Stevenson.  In 1988 the influential collection of essays “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde after One-Hundred Years” made further inroads in the critical realm, and Oxford World Classics editions of many Stevenson works were published in the late eighties.  Since 1995 a number of volumes of literary criticism on Stevenson have been published, as well as the establishment of a website in 1997, a biennial conference in 2000, and the Journal of Stevenson Studies in 2004.  From a critical standpoint, Stevenson is once again enjoying the popularity he achieved in his lifetime.

However, from a non-critical perspective, it is safe to say Stevenson never went out of fashion. Treasure Island is considered the quintessential pirate story, and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been so endlessly adapted, and in such a variety of formats, that it is nearly ubiquitous.  Amongst authors such as Borges, Ian Rankin, Jeannette Winterson, and Margaret Atwood, he is admired and cited as an influence.  Through the vicissitudes of criticism and history, he has reemerged as a significant voice in English literature, both within the English-speaking world and far beyond it.

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