Neo-Victorian Heterotopias

deadline for submissions: 
June 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Swansea University
contact email: 

2021 Special Issue on “Neo-Victorian Heterotopias”

of the open access journal Humanities (


The ‘spatial turn’ in neo-Victorian studies has gained increasing recent critical traction: in postcolonial re-readings of the nineteenth century in the present, in examinations of global neo-Victoriana, and in the focus on recurrent sites of difference deployed in neo-Victorian texts, such as asylums, brothels, prisons, and libraries, to name only a few. This special issue marks a significant development in the theorisation of such spatial configurations, by specifically exploring neo-Victorian representations of heterotopias and their role in both cultural memory and the cultural imaginary of the period.


Michel Foucault’s radical re-readings of nineteenth-century history and sexuality, in particular, have greatly influenced neo-Victorian studies’ critical approach to the contemporary fascination with the literature, arts, and culture of this particular past time, which is still so much with us. In this special issue, we invite scholars to reconsider Foucault’s ambiguous, often contradictory concept of heterotopia in relation to the volatility of neo-Victorian spaces. In his seminal essay ‘Des Espace Autres’ (1967, translated as ‘Of Other Spaces’ in 1984), Foucault defined heterotopias as actual spaces of difference or otherness within the dominant social order, as “counter sites” to imaginary utopias, in that heterotopias form part of the reality they reflect even as they contest and invert the same. These sites range from “crisis heterotopias” (such as boarding schools or military academies) for subjects undergoing critical periods of transition, and “heterotopias of deviation” (such as penal institutions or hospitals) designed to contain and segregate designated aberrance, to heterotopias of “illusion” and “compensation” (such as séance rooms, music halls, and ships), which respectively expose the “messy” contradictions of human life and construct ideal spaces for alternative forms of subjectivity and intersubjective engagement. Hence the utopian as well as dystopian nature of heterotopic spaces always emerges in dialectic with the varied challenges such sites pose to established laws, norms, and expectations.  


Using Foucault’s principles of heterotopia as a starting point, this special issue invites articles that examine how neo-Victorian writers, filmmakers, and artists reconstruct nineteenth-century environments as particular kinds of heterotopia, the ideological aims that underlie such projects, and the strategic effects produced by heterotopic space in neo-Victorian media. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):


·   heterotopia and the neo-Victorian ‘spatial turn’

·   mobility, shifting heterotopias, and fluid identities/subjectivities

·   heterotopian facilitations of gender and/or racial subversion

·   the neo-Victorian politicisation of heterotopic space

·   postcolonial heterotopias as spaces of resistance

·   heterotopia and affect

·   categories of neo-Victorian heterotopias and their differential uses

·   complicit and/or non-oppositional heterotopic spaces

·   heterotopia and neo-Victorian postmodernism

·   heterotopian futurism and utopian connections

·   heterotopia and neo-Victorian steampunk and/or fantasy

·   nineteenth-century material culture, heritage, and heterotopia


Please send 250-300 word proposals to the Guest Editors Marie-Luise Kohlke and Elizabeth Ho and the Assistant Guest Editor Akira Suwa at,, and by 30 June 2019. Contributors will be advised of the editorial team’s decision by 15 August 2019, with articles due by 15 February 2020. (The special issue is planned for publication in early 2021.)