Victorian Realism and Crime

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Victorian Realism and Crime Special Issue
contact email: 

The definition of literary realism and the key features of Victorian realist novels have long been the subject of debate. However, most would agree that Victorian realist texts have traditionally focused on the lived experience of everyday people, representing the observable world and embracing literal representation of it, and using it to present social commentary prescient to the real world it is designed to reflect.

Victorian and Golden Age crime fiction, meanwhile, has historically been tied to the sensational, the allegorical, the formulaic, and (in broader terms) the willing suspension of disbelief. Readers accept, and in some ways are almost expected to predict, the formula and conclusion to the story, and are content in the knowledge that the story will reach a predictable conclusion.

However, crime is in and of itself a reality of life, and any tale that purports to be realist should accept this premise; indeed, many canonical realist texts in the Victorian period involve crimes that rival those of sensation fiction in terms of their depiction and narrative impact in spite of the very different critical responses to the genres. With this in mind, we invite abstracts for a Special Issue of Humanities to look at the connections between Victorian realism and depictions of, commentaries on or engagement with crime and criminality. Topics for submission could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Realist fiction and representations of criminality;
  • Realist fiction and crime as social commentary;
  • The realism of Victorian/nineteenth-century crime and sensation fiction;
  • Representations or depictions of true crime in fiction;
  • Critiques of ideas of realism using crime as a lens for discussion;
  • The historical and social realities of Victorian crime;
  • The psychology of Victorian crime;
  • Victorian detectives and detection;
  • Adaptations and neo-Victorian engagement with crime;
  • Theoretical approaches to Victorian crime;
  • Comparative approaches to crime in realist and sensationalist/crime fiction of the period.

Abstracts of 250 words should be sent to and/or by 31 October 2023. Final manuscripts due 31 July 2024. Please also feel free to contact either editor for an informal discussion about the project.

Further information can also be found here:

Dr. Melissa Raines
Dr. Sam Saunders
Guest Editors