“That tree gives me the creeps!”: Tales of Vampiric Plants

Readers of Gothic literature will quickly recognize that Irene is suffering from a vampire bite. She is not the victim of Dracula, Carmilla, or Lord Ruthven, though. Rather, it is a vampiric sumach tree that has attacked her during her sleep. Ulric Daubeny’s “The Sumach,” published in his collection The Elemental: Tales of the Supernormal and the Inexplicable (1919), is a fascinating killer-plant story. It tells of a tree that has grown from a stake plunged into the heart of a buried vampire. The tree possesses hypnotic powers that seduce young women to its branches to feed upon them.

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“Is it a snake with legs, or a lizard without them?”: The Strange and Wondrous Case of the Biscobra

Alice Perrin’s anthology of gothic short stories, East of Suez (1901), concludes with a rather unsettling story called “The Biscobra.” Perrin’s “The Biscobra” is a rare instance in Anglo-Indian fiction where the biscobra is the central concern. Here, the eponymous Indian animal—strange, wondrous, and deadly—devastates the domestic life of a young Anglo-Indian couple, the Kreys. The biscobra, in this story, does some narrative heavy lifting: it falls on a pregnant Nell Krey’s shoulders, frightening her to death; becomes the reincarnation

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Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s Fiction and Nineteenth-Century Cross-Cultural Dialogue

The cross-cultural dialogue generated as a part of the discursive assimilation between the East and the West during the nineteenth century was not only textured and nuanced, but further reflected larger epistemological debates emerging from this socio-historic conflation of ideas. The question of ‘colonial modernity’, which gained currency in later critical writing, focusing on the multiplicity of ideological categories formed as a part of this discursive shift, certainly testifies to the transformative cultural landscape of the time period. Significant among

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“Preferring Death to the Embrace of a Strange Dancing Woman”: Jewish Dancers in Victorian Ballrooms

Dancing was perhaps the most universal and popular mixed-sex leisure pursuit in the nineteenth century. Yet dance was not purely a recreational activity. Ballroom etiquette demanded adherence to the rules of fashionable society, including precise rules for comportment, conversation, and choosing a dance partner. For upwardly mobile Jewish dancers, balls presented additional challenges. First of all, mixed-sex dancing was forbidden according to traditional Jewish law, which regarded men and women dancing together as a gateway to sexual impropriety. And while

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‘Bill’s-O’-Jacks’ and the Northern ‘Dark Tourist’

The floor was covered with blood, as if it was a butcher’s slaughter-house. The wall of the room, on three sides, was sprinkled with human blood, […] and even the glass of the windows, on the fourth side, were splashed with blood. [1] Thomas Smith saw this when visiting The Moorcock Inn – more commonly known as ‘Bill’s-O’-Jacks’ – in 1832. The gore from father and son William and Thomas Bradbury was so thick that Smith repeated it three times

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The Virtuosa is the Villain: How Hulu’s ‘Only Murders in the Building’ Rehearses Victorian Ideas About Female Musicians

Alert: this piece contains spoilers for Hulu’s 2021 show Only Murders in the Building. Scroll down to read!                         I should have known it was the bassoonist.  As a scholar of classical music and gender and a clarinetist myself, I can’t believe it took me until the second-to-last episode of Hulu’s 2021 murder mystery/comedy series Only Murders in the Building (OMITB) to realize that the serial killer at the core

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Books and Borders in the Atlantic World

The nineteenth-century Anglo-Atlantic world, although fractured by emergent national categories after 1776, continued to share a vibrant literary market united by language and trade.[1] Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott were popular in Britain, Canada, and the United States, and James Fenimore Cooper was read and imitated on both sides of the Atlantic. British literature provided Canadian colonial writers with models to emulate and with iconic names to admire; Canadian book buyers dealt with American, as well as with British

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‘The Battle of Dorking’ and Combat Trauma

The unnamed narrator of Lieutenant-Colonel George Chesney’s invasion scare story, The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer (1871), is a complex character. His war-experience, recounted to his grandchildren in 1921 before they emigrate to a ‘new home in a more prosperous land’,[1] contains several details which should elicit readers’ sympathy – or, at the very least, pity. After he volunteers to defend Britain from German-speaking invaders, the protagonist experiences several distressing ordeals in 1871. At the titular battle, he

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Literary responses to the Cotton Famine in Lancashire

The Cotton Famine (1861-65) was a significant era of poverty and unemployment resulting from a blockade on raw cotton during the American Civil War, which hit Lancashire’s textile communities particularly hard. It produced a wide variety of contemporary literary responses, many of which have been under-discussed in scholarship on Victorian industrial literature. In the past decade, however, more effort has been put into archiving and analysing these responses. This is primarily seen in the University of Exeter’s open access digital

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Anna Kingsford’s Spiritual Thunderbolt

“I have killed Paul Bert, as I killed Claude Bernard; as I will kill Louis Pasteur, and after him the whole tribe of vivisectors, if I live long enough. . . it is a magnificent power to have, and the one that transcends all vulgar methods of dealing out justice to tyrants,” claimed Anna Kingsford in her diary after Bert’s death in 1886 (qtd. in Maitland, vol. 2, 268). Kingsford, a staunch animal rights activist and spiritualist, believed that her

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