Neo-Victorian Villainy Symposium 25 May 2013

full name / name of organization: 
Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York, UK

Neo-Victorian Villainy:
Adaptation and Reinvention on Page, Stage and Screen

This one-day symposium aims to facilitate cross-disciplinary discussion between scholars in Film, Theatre, Television, Neo-Victorian Studies, Literature, Adaptation Studies, and Fan and Popular Culture Studies. At its heart is the research question:

In what ways do modern representations of the villain in popular culture draw on the popular culture and iconic villains of the Victorian period?

Responses might consider any number of cultural manifestations, from direct adaptations of Victorian fiction and neo-Victorian fiction, to sequels/prequels, crossover fiction and modernisations, to new stories set in the Victorian era, or the more indirect ways in which Victorian conventions and innovations continue to influence popular good-versus-evil narratives.
One of the attractions of much neo-Victorian fiction, film and TV is undoubtedly the 'permission' that it grants readers to indulge their enjoyment of fast-paced, incident-packed narrative, in homage to, or pastiche of, the classic nineteenth-century novel. But to what extent do such narratives also permit the reader to return to clear character categories of good and evil, even if only as an inversion, where the villains are those who were once considered the 'great and the good' of the Victorian period?
Some further areas for consideration might include, but are not limited to:
- What are some of the lines of influence that can be drawn between powerful, monstrous or uncanny figures of the fin de siècle – Count Dracula, Svengali, Edward Hyde, Moriarty, Dorian Gray, Hawley Griffin, Ayesha – and twentieth-century film, television and comic-book villains? How have modernised adaptations or reinterpretations of these characters/texts altered the contours of their villainy?
- How is it that certain types of entertainment – television soaps, action movies, some videogames – have retained the structures and moral binaries of nineteenth-century melodrama, while associations with melodrama have, since Modernism, often been seen as 'toxic' when applied to theatre and the novel? What are the tensions here between popular and high-brow success?
- How does neo-Victorian fiction, film, TV and theatre interrogate the gendering of the villain as male?
- How have historical events, such as the Wilde trials or the Ripper murders, been reframed in recent work to create new 'villains of the piece'?
- To what extent do the roots of neo-Victorian representations of villainy lie in the 'Gaslight Melodramas' of the 1940s: Gaslight, Fanny By Gaslight/Man of Evil, Footsteps in the Fog, Hangover Square, and so on?
- How far have psychoanalytical ideas, filtered through pop psychology and the self-help industry, led to new conventions and clichés in diagnosing and explaining 'evil' behaviour in fiction and in real life news stories?
- How have new entertainment formats shaped and structured their material to create heroes and villains? Are social media modes of communication that encourage emotional responses and the creation of 'folk devils'?
Please send abstracts of around 200 words to the symposium organiser, Dr Ben Poore, at by midnight on March 24th 2013. Authors of successful proposals will be notified during the following week. Details of how to register will also be circulated at that point.