Italian Refractions of the Victorian Gothic: Matilde Serao’s Fragmented Human Subject

In a compelling exploration of interdisciplinarity, the Victorianist Kelly Hurley examines the influence of nineteenth-century science on contemporaneous literary developments. Hurley argues that radical developments in a range of fields dislodged a comfortable anthropocentrism, which in turn asked uneasy questions of humans’ self-assigned transcendency within the natural order: The new discoveries in the geological and biological sciences required a radical rethinking of humanity’s position relative to its environment: its intimate relation to lower species; the role of the mere individual

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Sympathy in Public, Sympathy in Private: An Introduction to Novelist Edna Lyall in Two Parts (Part 1)

Sympathy sold well in the late-nineteenth-century literary marketplace. When the novel We Two (1884) by Edna Lyall (pseudonym of Ada Ellen Bayly, 1857–1903) became an overnight sensation, Lyall cut a figure that was ready-made to slip into the role of sympathy spokesperson. Her career became a sympathetic enterprise in more than one sense. Not only did she write sensitively to ease myriad anxieties crowding the minds and lives of lower-middle-class readers; she also aspired to instill in readers a habitual

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The Radical Politics of Wuthering Heights 

In 1847, when Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights under the male pseudonym Ellis Bell, reviewers didn’t quite know what to make of it. Many were dismissive and a handful recognized it as a work of genius, but all were baffled. “This is a strange book,” one succinctly remarked.[1] Charlotte Brontë tossed a further wrench in the literary market machine when she revealed herself and her sisters as women three years later. Emily, by the second printing of her novel in

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Humans vs. Animals: Reimagining the Role of Martians in H.G. Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’

If you have ever read or heard of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1898), then you will be familiar with its role in the literary world of science fiction fantasy and reality. With the recent launch of a new BBC three-part adaptation of Wells’ classic tale, there is no better time to discuss the novel in a new light, reimagine the role of Martians and provide new critical insight into the relationship between the human and the

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Madness, disease and death: the trials and tribulations of a vagrant life in the nineteenth century

Vagrancy is complicated. When we talk about vagrants, we assume that they are (or were) homeless, destitute, criminals, or suffering from mental health issues – or, indeed, all of the above. Through this post I shall reflect on all of these attitudes, prejudices and assumptions through vagrant experiences described by the local British Press. I will talk about three cases, the first describing a ‘mad vagrant’ woman, her apprehension and punishment. The second case, an interaction between the workhouse, medical

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Toy Theatres and Real Ones

Toy theatre was a popular children’s entertainment from around 1811 (the date of the first preserved sheets) until the 1860s. More than just a model stage, publishers offered young practitioners a variety of scenery and character sheets, abridged play scripts, and small-scale special effects with which to perform juvenile dramas.[1] Publishers often based juvenile productions on popular plays staged in full-scale London theatres. Melodramas and pantomimes were usually favoured for miniature productions. In an interview with Henry Mayhew in 1850,

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Cotton Famine Poetry as Affective Commentary in Lancashire and Beyond

Apart from short journalistic pieces and the material produced for the database [1] associated with the AHRC-funded project, ‘The Poetry of the Lancashire Cotton Famine 1861-65’, my article which appears in Journal of Victorian Culture 25.1 is the first of probably several publications on the literary-historical-cultural subject to which I have devoted the last few years of my research. The article’s title, “This ’Merikay War’: Poetic Responses in Lancashire to the American Civil War’, with its reference to provincial Lancashire

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‘Many kindred topics’: exploring the potential of the Victorian underground

In 1873, American writer and explorer Thomas Wallace Knox published Underground: Or, Life Below the Surface. Weighing in at a hefty 953 pages and drawing on the author’s own personal experience as well as ‘numerous books of travel’, ‘literary gentlemen’, and fictional and scientific sources, it offered an apparently exhaustive examination of every underground space at that point known to mankind: mines, riverbeds, vaults, caves, and many more.[1] Indeed, its subtitle was almost as long as the winding, subterranean labyrinths

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The latest issue of JVC (24.4) is now available

The editors are pleased to introduce the latest issue of Journal of Victorian Culture in time for your December break. This issue includes our latest Graduate Essay Prize winner, Lucy Whitehead’s “Restless Dickens: A Victorian Life in Motion, 1872–1927″: a superbly innovative investigation of John Forster’s biography as a kind of proto-cinematic text (free access). Two of our essays explore medical-humanities perspectives on well-known authors: Lindsey Stewart’s “‘A New and Fierce Disorder’s Raging’: Monomania in Mary Barton (1848)” and Gregory Brophy’s “Fit and

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Just Like Us: Victoria, Albert and the middle-class family (part 4 of 4)

Part 4: Christmas yet to come With Albert’s death just before Christmas 1861, everything changed; Victoria made no entries in her journal until New Year’s Day, though she wrote to King Leopold on 20 December, But oh! To be cut off in the prime of life – to see our pure, happy, quiet domestic life, which alone enabled me to bear my much disliked position, cut off at forty-two – when I had hoped with such instinctive certainty that God

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