Victorian and Edwardian Reads 2016

Greetings all fans of Vicky and Eddie. Since finishing my Ph.D., I have been busy building my publication record and developing my own particular niches in the field of Victorian Studies. 2015 was an incredibly productive year for me and I’m looking forward to reading what my colleagues have in store for 2016.

At the same time, I have also made a point of reading across the field of Victorian and Edwardian literature and culture. Some of the works I’ve been obsessing over lately include the following:

Pickwick Papers

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens: while I have read a number of Dickens works, this is my first time reading his first full-length novel. Episodic in format with a fascinating publication history, The Pickwick Papers is not a book to read if you are looking for a complex and layered plot – Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend are much better options for such a work – however, I am half way through Pickwick and I am enjoying the clear influence of eighteenth-century fiction, especially Henry Fielding, on Dickens’ writing. Reading Pickwick, you can also see more clearly the similarities between Dickens and Thackeray – the great competitors of Victorian serial novelists. While not a great novel, Pickwick is a great cultural artifact. If nothing else, you too can develop a crush on the adorable Sam Weller: such a doll!

Sam Weller

Penny Dreadful: a Showtime/ Sky television series starring Eva Green, Josh Hartnett and Billie Piper. A rollicking neo-Victorian adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, featuring occult spiritualism, colonial imperialism, gothic suspense, and, yes, lots of sex and nudity, Penny Dreadful takes the sensational form of the cheesy serials of the Victorian age from which it takes its name and re-imagines these great novels as parts of a larger fin-de-siècle soap opera. Anachronistic, campy, and smart, Penny Dreadful playfully presents late-Victorian culture for a diverse audience that loves Victorian literature and an audience that has never read anything from the nineteenth century. Coming soon: season/series three which will feature Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Penny Dreadful

My current obsession in scholarship is Matthew Potolsky’s The Decadent Republic of Letters: Taste, Politics, and Cosmopolitan Community from Baudelaire to Beardsley (Penn State University Press, 2013). Decadence is a complicated and elusive concept that many scholars have tried and failed to define. Potolsky’s book is, in my opinion, the best definition of Decadence as a cultural movement to date. While Potolsky’s emphasis is on pedagogy, the book has applicability and relevance to a multitude of academic interests in British Aestheticism and European Decadence.

Potolsky Decadent Republic of Letters

More Decadence is available for students now thanks to the editorial efforts of Kostas Boyiopoulos, Yoonjoung Choi, and Matthew Brinton Tildesley on The Decadent Short Story: An Annotated Anthology (Edinburgh University Press, 2015). Stories from Oscar Wilde, Vernon Lee, Ada Leverson, and many others are featured in this fat and juicy book in an attempt to show the diverse literary output of Decadence in British literature in the late-Victorian and Edwardian period(s). Bloxom’s controversial “The Priest and the Acolyte” is included. With useful and interesting introductions and annotations, this book is a must for students, instructors, and general fans of the period.

Decadent Short Story

I have been intensely focussed on my own research for the past year – hence my lack of updates here. This page was originally envisioned as a resource page to link readers to great sources and texts around the web and within culture. I want to keep that focus so I’ve avoided promoting my own work (even avoiding publishing my name on this page). Now that I have work in press, forthcoming, and in development, my own reading will be expanding. I want to return to classic Victorian texts and cultural representations of those works within culture. As I explore a diverse group of readings in 2016, I will share those readings with those of you using this page if, for no other reason, than to inspire new reading and research options for those of you seeking new avenues of study and entertainment.

Some works that I (shamefully) have not read yet but plan to in the coming months include the following:

Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (sensation fiction classic)

William Makepeace Thackeray’s The History of Pendennis (as important as Vanity Fair!)

Pendennis Thackeray

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South

North and South

George Moore’s Esther Waters

Esther Waters Moore

John Oliver Hobbes’ The Dream and the Business

The Dream and the Business

James Thomson’s The City of Dreadful Night

City of Dreaful Night

Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho!

Westward Ho Kingsley

Rudyard Kipling’s The Light that Failed

The Light that Failed Kipling

Eliza Lynn Linton’s The Rebel of the Family

Rebel in the Family

Poetry by Matilde Blind, Augusta Webster, and Grace Aguilar

There will be many more (I hope!) and I look forward to continuing my life-long study of Victorian and Edwardian literature and culture.

Happy reading to all of you. Here’s hoping for an even more productive 2016.