Neo-Victorian Villains: Call for Abstracts for Edited Volume

full name / name of organization: 
Dr Benjamin Poore, University of York

The Victorian villain of melodramatic stereotype cuts an instantly recognisable figure: cue the top hat and opera cape, the whiskers and moustache, the tremolo fiddle. Yet the narrowing down and simplifying of the Victorian villain is to a large extent a post-Victorian convention, strongly tied to the twentieth century's cultural assumptions of the Victorians as history's 'bad guys' (as Matthew Sweet, Christine L. Krueger and Rohan McWilliam and Kelly Boyd, among others, have noted).
This collection will provide a rigorous and wide-ranging exploration of the afterlives of the Victorian villain, in fiction, and stage and screen performance. It will seek answers to the question of why we so consistently need to invoke the Victorians when we speak of the villain, and in particular the 'bad' villain, the cardboard villain, the ham. What, put another way, is at stake in this complex dance of invocation and disassociation?

Subjects for chapters are likely to include:
• Considerations of individual villains from Victorian fiction and drama (e.g., Dorian Gray; Svengali; Jekyll /Hyde; Hawley Griffin; Dracula; Moriarty) and how they have been adapted and appropriated by modern writers, actors and directors;
• Analyses of how particular media forms ¬– from tabloid journalism to reality television and soap opera – thrive on the conflicts, characterisations and address to the audience that drove specific Victorian melodramatic sub-genres;
• Tropes of villainy in neo-Victorian fiction (such as, for instance, the urge to correct and 'trump' - to borrow Kamilla Elliott's term - the moral assumptions of canonical Victorian texts by reversing perspective, and hence the hero and villain roles).
• The afterlives of the Victorian femme fatale, the villainess and the adventuress

Essays taking other, more unusual and/or interdisciplinary approaches are also welcome, such as:
• The neo-Victorian aspects of long-running superhero comic book heroes and villains;
• The use of melodramatic performance and narrative in professional wrestling;
• The shades of immorality and evil presented in videogames set in the Victorian past;
• The significance of contemporary children's fiction in transmitting ideas about the Victorians as villains;
• The impact of heritage culture, and/or the teaching of history in schools and colleges, on perceptions of the 'Villainous Victorians' (as the Terry Deary 'Horrible Histories' book title has it).

Potential contributors should submit a 250-word abstract for consideration, along with a biographical note of 50 to 100 words, to:
Dr Benjamin Poore (Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York) at

Closing date for proposals: 31st August 2013