The Crimson Petal and the White and seeing Victorian London

London 1874, keep your wits about you, this city is vast and intricate, and you do not know your way around. You imagined from other stories you read that you know it well, but those stories flattered you: you are an alien from another time and place altogether. You don’t even know what hour it is, nor do most where you’re going. Sugar, Episode One.                                                                                                        Victorian London has returned to British screens with the dramatization of Michel Faber’s 2002 novel

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The Battle of the Peacock Room: Two New Exhibits at the Freer

Together, “The Peacock Room Comes to America” and “Chinamania” are worth visiting, not only to get a new look at the collecting work of these three late nineteenth-century connoisseurs —extraordinary in itself—but also to understand more about Whistler’s pivotal position between Victorian Aestheticism and the early twentieth-century’s Modernist preoccupation with primitive form.

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Traffic Jams: A window into Victorian Mobility

A new UK Government strategy to tackle the congestion caused by road closures was unveiled this week by Roads Minister, Mike Penning.  In the global twenty-first century society, traffic jams and travel chaos seemingly go hand-in hand with the cosmopolitan lifestyle mobile technology affords.  As I write, the BBC’s live ‘jam cameras’ reveal the extent of the traffic problems in London alone (currently I can view the miles of stationary traffic on the North Circular, or the equally snarled Cricklewood

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The Importance of Being Earnest Live in HD

On 2 June 2011, the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Wilde’s masterpiece will be broadcast live in HD at cinemas throughout the United States and internationally, with repeat performances being shown periodically until 28 June. To complete the experience, the Playgoer’s Guide to the production is available online, offering a brief sketch of the play’s original cultural context. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AcTmJHsbOXQ&feature=player_embedded[/youtube] It is interesting that the information in the guide, as well as some of the trailers and videos on the theatre

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Bestselling the Victorians: Bill Bryson’s ‘At Home.’

Bryson’s 2010 “Short History of Private Life,” the newest of the author’s bestselling works, assumes the enormous task of documenting the development of domestic life from the earliest traces of human dwellings up to the present day. The Daily Telegraph’s review, which appears on the opening page of the book, rightly, but perhaps unintentionally, highlights the problematic readability of Bryson’s study: “[Bryson has] extracted the most arresting material [from 508 books] and turned the result into a book that, for

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A Tale of Two Book Club Selections: Oprah Reads Dickens

by Ryan D. Fong University of California, Davis For many years now, at the beginning of the Dickens Universe conference held each year at UC Santa Cruz, eminent Victorian scholar and Universe director John O. Jordan affectionately introduces the weeklong proceedings by asserting that “Charles Dickens is the train station through which all things in the nineteenth century pass.” Indeed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to think of any Victorian topic not represented or considered in Dickens’ novels and

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Are Victorian Adaptations Passé?

As Colin Firth basks in The King’s Speech’s afterglow, Emma Thompson pens a screenplay for My Fair Lady, and Baz Lurhmann directs The Great Gatsby, it seems that the heritage film industry is increasingly trading in Victorian sources for more modern fare. This displacement of Victorian source texts by 20th-century upstarts is clearly visible on television, as well. Masterpiece Theatre, the long-running public television program that imports British costume drama to American Anglophiles, noticeably skipped over Victorian texts in this

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The Show Queen (concerning PR and Princes)

                                              The latest figures suggest that ‘More than 24 million viewers [in Britain] watched the royal wedding’ of Prince William and Kate Middleton earlier this month (BBC). While the television cameras allowed access to the event itself, thousands chose to line the streets of London just to catch a glimpse of the young couple in the flesh as they were paraded from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. In this promenading of royalty on their day of union, and

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Unlocking the Gate: Open Garden Squares Weekend

The weekend of 11th-12th of June 2011 sees some of London’s most secluded gardens open to the public.  Taking place across London, the Open Garden Squares event encourages visitors to encounter green spaces in the capital they didn’t know existed. Not only does this weekend satisfy curiosity and spark green-fingered adventures, it also offers the opportunity to delve into the area’s past.  This is particularly true of the private squares which dominate the landscape of Belgravia.  Belgrave, Cadogan, Chester and

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Modern Svengalis: Victorian Psuedoscience and Spiritualism in Contemporary Culture

Anyone curious about the influence of Victorian pseudoscience and spiritualism in our contemporary entertainment culture should take a stroll down Shaftesbury Avenue in London.  On the side of the Shaftesbury Theatre there currently is a giant sign with the word “Svengali” written on it in large bold letters.  The self-styled Svengali is the illusionist Derren Brown, a British author and performer who has appeared in numerous television series and the sign refers to his 2011 stage tour.  Like George du Maurier’s

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