‘[T]he Dickensesque run mad’: Continuities and Ruptures in the History of the ‘Dickensian’

This blog post reflects on Dickens’s legacy as captured in the term ‘Dickensian’, from early uses of the term to what the events of 2020 might mean for study of his afterlife. It also introduces a new open access edited collection, Dickens After Dickens (White Rose UP, 2020), which explores some of the forms in which Dickens’s influence has manifested from the nineteenth century to the present, from his influence on writers including Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, William Faulkner and Donna Tartt

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 “Going Off” in Fat Victorian Novels

I recently picked up a long Victorian novel that has long been on my list, Margaret Oliphant’s 1866 Miss Marjoribanks. It features a protagonist who recalls Jane Austen’s Emma, the spoiled, clever, and maddening Lucilla Marjoribanks (pronounced “Marchbanks”), who is determined to have her way in everything as she navigates through a marriage plot in a sleepy provincial mid-Victorian English town. Miss Marjoribanks is a good pandemic read for the comfortable satisfactions it offers as a sprawling realist novel that

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Edwin Moxon’s Embroidered Trunks

Costumes are powerful objects, which carry multiple meanings and memories in their fibres. Through three connected blog posts, I will highlight the importance of costume for performance: revealing the insights costumes offer into the lives of the people who designed, made, wore and saw them. Commencing with Ellen Terry’s ‘Beetlewing Dress’, moving on to Edwin Moxon’s embroidered ‘shorts’ (this post), and concluding with Kitty Lord’s carefully padded ‘Symmetricals’, I will showcase the information which these unique garments offer about the

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The rise and fall of the historical novel?

Everyone agrees that the historical novel is an almost impossible genre to write successfully. Yet it keeps being written, and being successful. It’s having rather a boom in the early 21st century, with the success of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy and others.  And it had its biggest boom in the early Victorian period, propelled into the limelight by Walter Scott and his Waverley novels, and proliferated by many anonymous and many now sidelined authors including John Galt, sisters Jane

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A Tale of Two Whitechapels: Jack the Ripper and the Canonical Five in Contemporary True Crime

It wasn’t the best of times, and it wasn’t the worst of times. For Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elisabeth Stride, Cate Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly, Whitechapel, London in 1888 was the end of times. Known as “the canonical five” of Jack the Ripper’s victims, these women—largely invisible to London culture during their lives—can’t rest in their deaths. For 130 years writers, criminologists, armchair detectives, filmmakers, and artists have studied and reproduced all of the blood-soaked details of their murders

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Lady Clementina Hawarden: photographic pioneer

Next to a window with shafts of light providing shadowy illumination into a sparsely furnished room stands an adolescent girl. There is a look of casual awkwardness about her, yet she has an enigmatic stare towards the camera, showing a degree of trust shared between herself, the model and the photographer.  Beyond the window is a blurred view of the city, lost in the power of the intimacy of the dramatic pose struck by this girl, the subject of the

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Hard Times and radical collectivity in the era of COVID-19 

One of the most memorable – and puzzling – moments in Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854) occurs when the beleaguered factory worker Stephen Blackpool falls into an abandoned mineshaft.  Ostracized by his fellow mill “Hands” for his refusal to join the union, prevented by intractable Victorian divorce laws from marrying his true love Rachael, and framed for a bank robbery he did not commit, Stephen flees the grim, industrial city of Coketown but changes course when Rachael implores him to

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How Victorian Cookbooks are Helping Us Cope with Covid

It is a truth universally acknowledged, at least by the Internet, that one way to cope with Covid is to bake banana bread. From social media to Stanley Tucci’s recent diary of quarantine cooking in The Atlantic to the New York Times’ “At Home” section, Americans are hearing at least one persistent and unified message about Covid-19: we should all be cooking. Or baking. Preferably bread. At first glance, the reasons behind the uptick in home cooking seem obvious. Shopping

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Costumes in the Limelight

Costumes are powerful objects, which carry multiple meanings and memories in their fibres. Through three connected blog posts, I will highlight the importance of costume for performance: revealing the insights costumes offer into the lives of the people who designed, made, wore and saw them. Commencing with Ellen Terry’s ‘Beetlewing Dress’, moving on to Edwin Moxon’s embroidered ‘shorts’, and concluding with Kitty Lord’s carefully padded ‘Symmetricals’, I will showcase the information which these unique garments offer about the performer, performance,

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‘“Who am I, then?” Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I’ll come up: if not, I’ll stay down here till I’m somebody else’: Femininity and Madness in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865)

Unlike many other examples of “Golden Age” nineteenth-century children’s literature that promoted morality through allegorical form, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) was without a clear instructional purpose. In this post, I consider two images by Sir John Tenniel (1865) and Salvador Dalí (1969) in order to reinterpret Wonderland’s possibilities through femininity and madness. In the Victorian period, ‘madness’ was a gendered construct associated with ideas of the feminine, such as hysteria.[1] Although Alice is represented as a child

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