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CFP: Penny Dreadfuls and the Gothic: Edited Collection (4/30/2021)

Penny Dreadfuls and the Gothic: Edited Collection, Call for Papers

Famed for their scandalous content and supposed pernicious influence on a young readership, it is little wonder why the Victorian penny dreadful was derided by critics and, in many cases, censored or banned. These serialised texts, published between the 1830s until their eventual decline in the 1860s, were enormously popular, particularly with working-class readers. As Judith Flanders has highlighted in The Invention of Murder (2011), for every publisher of “respectable fiction”, there were ten for penny fiction. However, despite their evidential popularity, these texts have fallen into obscurity; this could be accounted for perhaps due to their ephemeral nature with many titles being lost or incomplete, alternatively this could be the effects of literary criticisms from writers such as Charles Dickens and James Greenwood overspilling into contemporary scholarship. Neglecting these texts from Gothic literary criticism creates a vacuum of working-class Gothic texts which have, in many cases, cultural, literary and socio-political significance. This collection aims to redress this imbalance and critically assess these crucial works of literature.

While some of these penny texts (i.e. String of Pearls, Mysteries of London, and Varney the Vampyre to name a few) are popularised and affiliated with the Gothic genre, many penny bloods and dreadfuls are obscured by these more notable texts. As well as these traditional pennys produced by such prolific authors as James Malcolm Rymer, Thomas Peckett Press, and George William MacArthur Reynolds, the objective of this collection is to bring the lesser-researched, and forgotten, texts from neglected authors into scholarly conversation with the Gothic tradition and their mainstream relations.

This call for papers requests essays that explore these ephemeral and obscure texts in relevance to the Gothic mode and genre. The aim for this collection is to revitalize the all-but-forgotten texts of the Victorian period and offer a re-emergence into Gothic scholarship. Examining such issues of marginalisation, the environment, and discourse in these ephemeral nineteenth-century publications, this edited collection will open an unexplored, and much needed, avenue of Gothic studies.

Essays may include such topics as (but are not limited to):

  • History and the evolution of penny narratives throughout the Victorian period
  • British pennys and their American counterparts (i.e. dime novels)
  • Penny literature as hybridisations of canonical, or high literature
  • Gothic representation in penny publications
  • “Rebirths” and/or adaptations of the penny narratives
  • Environment and the ecoGothic in penny literature
  • Reconceptualisation of the roles or manifestations of Gothic monsters and monstrosities
  • New perspectives and analytical approaches to Gothic subtexts in penny narratives
  • Victorian medical discourse and representation in penny narratives
  • Gothic marginalisation (i.e. race, colonisation, gender, sexuality, classism) in penny publications

Submission Guidelines: A brief bio and abstracts of 300 words should be sent to the editors, Nicole Dittmer (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Sophie Raine (Lancaster University) by 4 December 2020. Editors: nicole.dittmer@stu.mmu.ac.uk and s.raine@lancaster.ac.uk . Chapter submissions of between 5,000 and 7,000 words are due 30 April 2021.

Deadlines: Abstract submission: 4 December 2020 (notification for abstract acceptance provided with a four-five week period). Chapter submission: 30 April 2020.

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