Symbolism and Censorship in Aubrey Beardsley’s ‘Portrait of Himself in Bed’

At 22 years old, Aubrey Beardsley was in the midst of one of the most prosperous periods of his short life, thanks to regular employment with the quarterly artistic and literary periodical The Yellow Book (fig. 1). For the journal’s third volume, published in October 1894, Beardsley created an illustration entitled Portrait of Himself in Bed (fig. 2).[1] This drawing was printed using the line block technique, which necessitated his use of only black and white, with no middle tones.

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‘Horrors and Housekeeping’: Ellen Wood and the Modern Melodrama

When a woman suspects her husband of having an affair with a former flame, who is now his partner in a murder investigation, she has an affair of her own – with the murderer. The above description could easily pass as a pitch for a made-for-TV thriller, but it is the plot of Ellen Wood’s most famous novel, East Lynne (1861). I have recently been reading some of Wood’s lesser-known novels, such as St. Martin’s Eve (1866), Anne Hereford (1868),

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Japanese Steampunk: Science, Religion, and Technology in ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’

The retrofuturism of steampunk literature relies often on representations of science fiction and fantasy to construct neo-Victorian alternative histories populated with advanced technology pushing the views of scientific progress. These narratives not only imagine new possibilities for the future, but also situate their alternative histories within a framework that juxtaposes scientific advancement against the notion of faith and religious dogma. In the case of Shonen manga, Japanese comics and graphic novels written for young male audiences, the steampunk genre is

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The Domestic Hearth: Writings by Dickens, Beeton, Stevenson, and Hodgson Burnett

It is a starting point rather than a truism that the Victorians’ vision of domesticity had ‘the domestic hearth’ front and centre. This post will discuss novels (or novellas) written in the 1840s to the 1880s, by Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Frances Hodgson Burnett. These authors explore the theme of the domestic hearth through characters whose experiences of states like warmth, comfort, mutuality, cold, want, and social isolation may be fixed, or undergo transformations. Meanwhile, Isabella Beeton’s Book of

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Digital Clairvoyance: Lessons Learned by Text Mining the “Dr Slade Number” from 1876

The American medium Henry Slade was a nineteenth-century sensation. At the height of his career in the early 1870s he was considered one of the most extraordinary psychics of his generation. His main performance featured a type of supernormal communication where written messages, said to be from spirits existing beyond the veil, appeared on supposedly blank slates. It was a hugely popular act, and Slade toured all over North America and Europe demonstrating his incredible mediumship to broad and eager

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Arsenic and Old Wallpapers

“My wallpapers are killing me; one of us must go!” Oscar Wilde’s infamous last words are usually construed as a rueful comment on the ugliness of the decorations in his Paris hotel bedroom. Yet they could also be interpreted literally, and applied to the thousands of Victorians who fell victim to the deadly pigments in their wallpapers. Even from the vantage point of the recent pandemic, the nineteenth century was a hazardous time to be alive: subject to regular outbreaks

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“Writing Between the Lines”: Style as Walter Pater’s Esoteric Teaching of Queerness

Walter Pater, late nineteenth-century aesthete, is sometimes considered a quietist lacking political engagement. Heather Love points out that Pater has been closely linked to the ills of aestheticism, in particular, political quietism. She challenges this view by proposing to read Pater’s works “not as a refusal of politics but rather as a politics of refusal”.[1] I argue that Pater is not only engaged in a “politics of refusal” but also covertly celebrates unorthodox queerness esoterically to ensure that his radical

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Disability and Narrative Voice in Dinah Mulock Craik’s ‘John Halifax, Gentleman’

Dinah Mulock Craik’s novel John Halifax, Gentleman (1856) is a fictional biographical account of John Halifax’s development as a self-made man, told by his best friend, the physically disabled Phineas Fletcher. Throughout the novel, Phineas is very much preoccupied with bodies and physicality, often expressing his deep admiration for John’s physical strength and health. From the very beginning, John’s masculinity is highlighted when Phineas introduces John and admires his able-bodiedness, even before mentioning his name, which provides the readers with

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The JVC Graduate Student Essay Prize 2023

We are pleased to announce the next JVC Essay Prize competition. The aim of the prize is to promote scholarship among postgraduate research students working on the Victorian period in any discipline in the UK and abroad.  The Journal inaugurated the prize in 2007, and our past winners include Louise Lee, Tiffany Watt-Smith, Bob Nicholson, Tom Scriven, Roisín Laing, Lucy Whitehead, and Catherine Healy whose essays appear in issues 13.1 (2008), 15.1 (2010), 17.3 (2012), 19.1 (2014), 21.4 (2016) and 24.4

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Victorian literature as a subject of computer games of the 80s and early 90s

The detective who prowls through the billowing fog on the Thames, the adventurer who sets off in fantastic machines on journeys into the vastness of space and the depths of the ocean, or the brilliantly plotted intrigue in an aristocratic country estate: the popular literature of the Victorian era offers many themes that can still be found in contemporary media. Computer and video games are no exception to this rule. Passionate gamers can, for example, roam through the London of

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