Christiana Salah (Franklin and Marshall College)
In the rapidly expanding field of neo-Victorian studies, the million-dollar question remains: what qualifies as neo-Victorian? For guidance, many scholars have relied on Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyn’s definition, which specifies that to be called neo-Victorian, a text “must in some respect be self-consciously engaged with the act of (re)interpretation, (re)discovery and revision concerning Victorians.” The implication is that this is a subgenre for respectable texts, of clear intellectual pedigree.
Yet, just as the Victorian era had its penny dreadfuls, musical halls, and melodramas, so contemporary acts of reengaging the Victorian may come in less elevated packages. Alongside sleek heritage films and postmodern literary novels, Victorian tales and times have been adapted or newly imagined in horror movies, pulp romances, Japanese manga, scripted web series, and a variety of other media. Some are successful and satisfying on their own terms, some less so, but all raise significant questions about how a subgenre is to be defined: by project, content, or some aesthetic standard?
While scholars have addressed many such works individually, this panel invites readings that explore the broader question of whether/how the field of neo-Victorian studies might benefit from considering “lowbrow” or pop culture Victoriana. This panel seeks to shed light on how contemporary culture at large imagines, stereotypes, (mis)remembers, and manipulates the Victorian era, while continuing to celebrate it.Possible paper topics could include but are not limited to:
· Adaptations of canonical texts in atypical genres
· Adaptations of non-canonical Victorian texts
· Victorian characters in new settings
· Victorian values or aesthetics contemporized
· Depictions of Victorian bodies: eroticized, (dis)abled, racialized, and/or monstrous
· Genre film and television that engages the Victorian
· Children’s and young adult literature
· Comics, graphic novels, or anime
· Romance fiction (category or single-title)
· Fantasy, science fiction, or horror
· New media storytelling
· “Bad” works: ambitious failures and “guilty pleasures”
The field of neo-Victorian studies has largely concerned itself with literary fiction and heritage film. Yet, just as the Victorians enjoyed penny dreadfuls, musical halls, and melodramas, so readers and viewers today consume Victoriana via genres as diverse as pulp romance, TV horror, Japanese manga, and scripted web series. This panel seeks to map how the Victorian legacy of stories, values, and aesthetics is reproduced in contemporary culture, and to explore issues of genre and questions of high vs. low art within the neo-Victorian movement.