Costumes in the Limelight

Costumes are powerful objects, which carry multiple meanings and memories in their fibres. Through three connected blog posts, I will highlight the importance of costume for performance: revealing the insights costumes offer into the lives of the people who designed, made, wore and saw them. Commencing with Ellen Terry’s ‘Beetlewing Dress’, moving on to Edwin Moxon’s embroidered ‘shorts’, and concluding with Kitty Lord’s carefully padded ‘Symmetricals’, I will showcase the information which these unique garments offer about the performer, performance,

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‘“Who am I, then?” Tell me that first, and then, if I like being that person, I’ll come up: if not, I’ll stay down here till I’m somebody else’: Femininity and Madness in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865)

Unlike many other examples of “Golden Age” nineteenth-century children’s literature that promoted morality through allegorical form, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) was without a clear instructional purpose. In this post, I consider two images by Sir John Tenniel (1865) and Salvador Dalí (1969) in order to reinterpret Wonderland’s possibilities through femininity and madness. In the Victorian period, ‘madness’ was a gendered construct associated with ideas of the feminine, such as hysteria.[1] Although Alice is represented as a child

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Victorian Horse Shows: Spectacle, Leisure, Commodity

Horse shows, stalwarts of summer rural life, began as a Victorian phenomenon. Materialising in both London and Dublin in 1864 as responses to a sharp decline in the equine population, they coincided with the increasing promotion of leisure as an antidote to the pressures of modern work.[1]  Leisure pursuits were allied to ‘the quickening pulse of commercial enterprise which did much to enlarge and glamourize leisure,’ and horse shows quickly became busy marketplaces catering to pleasure and social ambition.[2] Previously

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The Radical Politics of Wuthering Heights 

In 1847, when Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights under the male pseudonym Ellis Bell, reviewers didn’t quite know what to make of it. Many were dismissive and a handful recognized it as a work of genius, but all were baffled. “This is a strange book,” one succinctly remarked.[1] Charlotte Brontë tossed a further wrench in the literary market machine when she revealed herself and her sisters as women three years later. Emily, by the second printing of her novel in

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Toy Theatres and Real Ones

Toy theatre was a popular children’s entertainment from around 1811 (the date of the first preserved sheets) until the 1860s. More than just a model stage, publishers offered young practitioners a variety of scenery and character sheets, abridged play scripts, and small-scale special effects with which to perform juvenile dramas.[1] Publishers often based juvenile productions on popular plays staged in full-scale London theatres. Melodramas and pantomimes were usually favoured for miniature productions. In an interview with Henry Mayhew in 1850,

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Just Like Us: Victoria, Albert and the middle-class family (part 1 of 4)

In behaving publicly much like members of the mid-nineteenth-century middle class, Victoria and Albert achieved great influence – both by making their subjects aspire to be like them, and by displaying their contemporaneity with those they ruled. This examination of aspects of the royal family’s domestic life, and of the image they presented to the nation, makes reference to selected diary entries and correspondence of Queen Victoria, and to imagery illustrating how Victoria and Albert might appear to their contemporaries almost as being ‘just like us’.

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Michael Nott, Developing Photopoetry

Michael Nott received his PhD from the University of St Andrews. He provides commentaries for the Developing Photopoetry project, and is currently working on his first monograph, a critical history of photopoetry. He tweets, occasionally, @michaeljnott   Among the treasures of the Photographically Illustrated Poetry Collection at the University of St Andrews is Eleanora (1860), an anonymous poem about the courtship of the titular heroine by a knight called Raymond during the Hundred Years’ War. The St Andrews copy is

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Rachel Carroll, “Sugar’s The Past”: Black British History in ITV’s Jericho (2016)

Rachel Carroll is Reader in English at Teesside University.  She is the author of Rereading Heterosexuality: Feminism, Queer Theory and Contemporary Fiction (2012) and editor of Adaptation in Contemporary Culture: Textual Infidelities (2009) and (with Adam Hansen) Litpop: Writing and Popular Music (2014).  Her essays on black Britain and literary adaptation have been published in Andrea Levy: Contemporary Critical Perspectives (2014) and Adaptation (2015).   In the early months of 2016 American audiences from Washington to New York were able

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Alyson Hunt, ‘Dressed to Kill’ Study Day Review

Arriving outside the sleek glass architecture of the Aldham Robarts library on an overcast Saturday morning to be greeted by the Liverpool John Moores sports teams excitedly gathered outside inexplicably wearing underwear on top of their clothes, I wondered if the long drive North had affected me more than I had anticipated. Thankfully, a rather more sedate welcome signalled the start of the Victorian Popular Fiction Association study day, an interdisciplinary event entitled Dressed to Kill: Fashion in Victorian Fiction

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Patricia Zakreski, Making a Black Ball Gown: Fashion and Social Change in the 1870s

Patricia Zakreski is Lecturer in Victorian Literature and Culture at the University of Exeter. She is the author of Representing Female Artistic Labour, 1848–1890: Refining Work for the Middle-Class Woman (Ashgate, Farnham, 2006). She is co-editor of ‘What is a Woman to Do?’ A Reader on Women, Work and Art, c. 1830–1890 (Peter Lang, Oxford, 2011) and Crafting the Woman Professional in the Long Nineteenth Century: Artistry and Industry in Britain (Ashgate, Farnham, 2013). Her current project includes articles and

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