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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‘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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Anna West, Thomas Hardy’s Sheep

Anna West is an early career researcher in English literature. She recently completed her doctorate at the University of St Andrews, where she was a recipient of a Macpherson scholarship and the Rutherford prize. Her first monograph, Thomas Hardy and Animals, is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2017. Follow her on twitter: @a_west19. This post accompanies her JVC article ‘“Rot the Genuine”: Moral Responsibility and Far from the Madding Crowd’s Cancelled Fragment’, which can be downloaded here.      

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CFP: Victorians Like Us III International Conference ‘Progress. A blessing or a curse?’

Venue: School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon Date: 26-27 October 2016 Convener: University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies (ULICES) Call for papers ‘Progress. A blessing or a curse?’ will be the third of a series of international conferences at the School of Arts and Humanities (University of Lisbon), promoted by the Research Group 2 (English Culture) of ULICES which have brought together Victorianist and Neovictorianist researchers, among others. The first event, (Victorians Like Us. Memories, dialogues and

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Silhouette of Sherlock Holmes

How Sherlock Changed the World

Jennifer Pyke (Mount Holyoke College) December 17th PBS will air How Sherlock Changed the World, a documentary that positions Holmes and Conan Doyle as not only anticipating but in some cases creating the forensic science of today.  The two-hour show (which has also aired on National Geographic in the UK) showcases leading forensic investigators, giddy with their love of Holmes, explaining how processes and tests were based on the fictional lab on Baker Street and sharing how often Holmes is in their

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