‘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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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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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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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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Lady Clementina Hawarden: the silhouette motif in photographic art

1st June 2022 marked the bicentenary of the birth of pioneering photographer Clementina Hawarden (1822-1865), one of the most significant women to contribute to early photography. In this blog I highlight a specific genre within the extensive Hawarden photographic collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, concentrating on use of the silhouette as a stylistic motif in her photographic portraiture. Viscountess Clementina Hawarden, née Fleeming, left an extensive oeuvre of collodion photographic images marking her brief embrace of the

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Pop-Up Anthology: Victorian Music

The summer issue of Journal of Victorian Culture includes an important roundtable on Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Music that exemplifies the interdisciplinary strengths of JVC. Our music collection boasts work in art history, literary history, musicology and music history. Music as an aspect of Victorian culture has been less celebrated, and certainly less fully researched, than the so-called ‘sister arts’ of poetry and painting. Essays by Michael Allis, George Kennaway, Elizabeth Helsinger and Marte Stinis in issue 27:2 find new ways

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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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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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Books, Reading, and Daydream Believing: Christy Carew Has ‘Nothing’ to Do

The current pandemic triggered what appears to be a reading revival. As I noted media discourse on people accumulating books, I wondered whether sometimes these books were companions to a daydream, as individuals imagined an alternative present or felicitous future; experiencing, as Charlotte Bronte expressed it in Villette, “the life of thought, and that of reality”.[1] Researching fictional experiences of reading in women’s writing at the fin de siècle, I notice a book is often accompaniment to a daydream. It

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