“The Lady is Ugly!”: The Imposition of Gender Binaries Upon Marian Halcombe

Marian Halcombe is a complex woman. Unlike many other female characters, both within and outside Victorian fiction, she stands outside the gender binary. She is often attributed male characteristics, both in mind and appearance. Her appearance is complex, juxtaposing her feminine and sexualized body with her masculine and ‘ugly’ face: The lady is dark. […] The lady is young. […] The lady is ugly! Never has the old conventional maxim, that Nature cannot err, more flatly contradicted – never was

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The Shadow of Mal: Gothic Romance and Victorian Ghosts in ‘Inception’

Christopher Nolan is acclaimed for his cinematic hybridization of multiple genres, ranging from thriller and science fiction to heist drama and superhero narratives. His use of literary themes in movie-making is especially prominent given that Nolan often writes character-driven stories with psychological depth and moral complexity. In his 2010 heist film, Inception, Nolan experiments with the narrative mechanics of Gothic romance through the story of Dom Cobb, a professional thief who extracts information by infiltrating his subjects’ dreams. Cobb’s inability

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The Socialist Utopia as Child’s Play: The Games of H. G. Wells and E. Nesbit

The first edition of H. G. Wells’s 1911 publication Floor Games, a manual for a worldbuilding game for children, opens with a declaration: [On a floor] may be made an infinitude of imaginative games, not only keeping boys and girls happy for days together, but building up a framework of spacious and inspiring ideas in them for after life. The British Empire will gain new strength from nursery floors.[1] The concept that child’s play could alter the child’s future —

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The Architecture of Victorian Christendom (book review)

English Victorian Churches: Architecture, Faith & Revival (John Hudson Publishing) by the eminent architectural historian James Stevens Curl is a book that can be read in more than one way and appeal to more than one kind of audience. It can be read as a work of scholarship; one that spans two distinct but related disciplines, namely Victorian church architecture and nineteenth-century ecclesiology. As an authoritative survey and critique of the finest examples of nineteenth-century English church building, it would

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Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Age of Victoria

Under the direction of Lisa Surridge and with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a group of scholars have created the peer-reviewed “Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Age of Victoria,” which can be found at  https://www.victorianweb.org/science/maternity/uvic/index.html   Thus far the project consists of the following, with more to come: “Pregnancy Testing,” by Isabel Davis “Pregnancy and Venereal Disease,” by Anne Hanley “Birth Control,” by Lesley Hall “Abortion,” by Lesley Hall “Breastfeeding, Wet Nursing, and Feeding ‘by

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False Teeth and Dishonesty in William Makepeace Thackeray’s ‘The Virginians’ (1859)

Header image: A full upper vulcanite denture with porcelain teeth (1880-1920) from Sir Henry Wellcome’s Museum Collection at the Science Museum. In the mid-nineteenth century, the show of teeth in ordinary life began to mean something new. While many edentulous – or toothless – Victorians experienced shame due to widespread tooth loss, with the increasing proliferation of dentists and dental treatments came the lessened desire to conceal broken teeth behind handkerchiefs and fans. Arguably more than ever before, an emerging

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The Woman Professional and De Facto Non-Biological Motherhood in ‘The Story of a Modern Woman’

Ella Hepworth Dixon’s novel, The Story of a Modern Woman (1894), unlike many of its mid-century predecessors and fin-de-siècle contemporaries, does not burden its heroine, an aspiring professional woman, with marriage and biological motherhood.[1] Mary Erle, the main protagonist of Dixon’s novel, “did not care for babies” and “would rather have had a nice, new, fluffy kitten.”[2] Having thus described Mary’s lack of interest in children in no uncertain terms, Dixon’s narrative is also careful to point out her natural,

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The Curious Case of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes

Sherlock Holmes is not often associated with the supernatural, having “confined [his] investigations to this world” when Dr. Mortimer presented Sherlock with his most overtly supernatural case, in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sherlock was logical, factual, and believed that human nature and the natural world, not the paranormal, could explain anything unexplainable. Despite this, Sherlock’s origins have closer ties to the supernatural than it might first appear. Sherlock’s creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, was a known spiritualist and a dedicated

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‘Hearts and Pockets’: Consumerism and the early Salvation Army

Figure 1 (header image): An advertisement for the wide range of goods to be purchased at the Salvation Army Trade Department, including an illustration of shoppers in the ‘Salvation Emporium’ showroom on Clerkenwell Road. From Salvation Army newspaper War Cry, 18 November 1893. Salvation Army International Heritage Centre. The notion of a ‘consumer identity’ is simultaneously ubiquitous and elusive. We are all consumers; and many of us do our best, in one way or another, to ensure that our consumer

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Sexualizing Narratives: Layered Scopophilia in Tess of the d’Urbervilles and the Female Reader

Header image: 1891 illustration from Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Joseph Syddall. “Why so often the coarse appropriates the finer thus,” comments the narrator of Tess of the d’Urbervilles following Tess Durbeyfield’s fateful encounter with Alec d’Urbervilles at the Chase.[1] The exploration of sexuality within Victorian culture and literature, especially female sexuality, is extensive; Michel Foucault’s first volume of The History of Sexuality (1976), Nancy Armstrong’s Desire and Domestic Fiction: A Political History of the Novel (1987), Christopher

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