Penny Dreadfuls and the Gothic

Investigations of Pernicious Tales of Terror

Editor(s) Nicole C. Dittmer,Sophie Raine

Language: English

Genre(s): Literary Criticism

Series: Gothic Literary Studies

  • February 2023 · 248 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Hardback - 9781786839701
  • · eBook - pdf - 9781786839718
  • · eBook - epub - 9781786839725

About The Book

Penny Dreadfuls and the Gothic breaks new ground in uncovering penny titles which have been hitherto largely neglected from literary discourse revealing the cultural, social and literary significance of these working-class texts. The present volume is a reappraisal of penny dreadfuls, demonstrating their cruciality in both our understanding of working-class Victorian Literature and the Gothic mode. This edited collection of essays provides new insights into the fields of Victorian literature, popular culture and Gothic fiction more broadly; it is divided into three sections, whose titles replicate the dual titles offered by penny publications during the nineteenth century. Sections one and two consist of three chapters, while section three consists of four essays, all of which intertwine to create an in-depth and intertextual exposition of Victorian society, literature, and gothic representations.


‘This is an important new volume of literary criticism that pays attention to the class dimension of the history of the Gothic. Dittmer and Raine have assembled and curated vital work on an under-researched aspect of Gothic literature that addresses misconceptions, stereotypes and literary snobbery, and provides fresh insights into the ways gothic tropes, narratives and techniques were developed through mass market periodicals and penny papers. The editors provide a deftly-written and rigorous introduction to this research, and the chapters taken together offer a lively conversation opening new avenues of enquiry for gothic scholars. This is a must-read for those interested in the history of the Gothic, especially in relation to social class, as well as anyone keen to learn about the publication contexts of nineteenth-century literature more broadly.’

Chloé Germaine, Senior Lecturer in English, Manchester Metropolitan University


Notes on Contributors
List of Figures and Illustrations
Dreadful Beginnings
Dr Nicole C. Dittmer and Sophie Raine
Section One: The Progression of Pennys; or, Adaptations and Legacies of the Dreadful
2.Penny Pinching:
Reassessing the Gothic canon through nineteenth-century reprinting
Hannah-Freya Blake and Marie Léger-St-Jean
3.“As long as you are industrious, you will get on very well”:
adapting The String of Pearls’ economies of horror
Brontë Schiltz
4.“Your lot is wretched, old man”:
Anxieties of Industry, Empire and England in
George Reynolds’s Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf
Dr Hannah Priest
Section Two: Victorian Medical Sciences and Penny fiction; or, Dreadful Discourses of the Gothic
5.‘Embalmed pestilence’, ‘intoxicating poisons’:
Rhetoric of contamination, contagion, and the Gothic
marginalisation of penny dreadfuls by their contemporary critics
Manon Burz-Labrande
6. “A Tale of the Plague”:
anti-medical sentiment and epidemic disease
in early Victorian popular Gothic fiction
Joseph Crawford
7.“Mistress of the broomstick”:
Biology, Ecosemiotics, and Monstrous Women
in Wizard’s The Wild Witch of the Heath; or the Demon of the Glen
Dr Nicole C. Dittmer
Section Three: Mode, Genre, and Style; or, Gothic Storytelling and Ideologies
8.A Ventriloquist and a Highwayman Walk into an Inn...
Early Penny Bloods and the Politics of Humour
in Jack Rann and Valentine Vaux
Celine Frohn
9.Gothic Ideology and Religious Politics
in James Malcolm Rymer’s Penny Fiction
Dr Rebecca Nesvet
10.“Muddling about among the dead”:
found manuscripts and metafictional storytelling
in James Malcolm Rymer’s Newgate: A Romance
Sophie Raine
List of Referenced Penny Titles

About the Editor(s)

Author(s): Nicole C. Dittmer

Nicole C. Dittmer is Lecturer of Horror and Gender Studies at The College of New Jersey. She is an editorial board member of Studies in Gothic Fiction.

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Author(s): Sophie Raine

Sophie Raine is a PhD candidate at Lancaster University, researching into how ‘other’ spaces are constructed in the penny dreadfuls. She is also the peer-review editor for the online journal Victorian Network.

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