Napoleon Sarony: Victorian Celebrity Photographer

I wanted to write a quick post in celebration of a nineteenth-century gent whose photographs you’ll probably be familiar with, but whose fabulously flouncy self is far less known than he deserves to be. Meet Napoleon Sarony (1821-1896)


Sarony self portrait
Sarony. Self Portrait.

Born in Quebec in 1821, Sarony moved to New York in 1836 to pursue a career in lithography and photography. It was in 1867 that he established the famed photography studio at 37 Union Square which Walt Whitman described as ‘a great establishment’ in which he ‘had a real pleasant time’ when he was invited to sit for Sarony in 1878.[1]

Sarony Whitman
Walt Whitman ‘had a real pleasant time’ at Sarony’s studio, not that you’d know it.

Continue reading “Napoleon Sarony: Victorian Celebrity Photographer”


CFP: Special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review: The Strand Magazine

Described by Reginald Pound as a ‘national institution’, the Strand Magazine (1891–1950) was the foremost British New Journalistic fiction paper of the 1890s. This heavily illustrated monthly promised its readers ‘cheap, healthful literature’, including short and serial fiction, factual articles, human-interest features and celebrity items, by some of the best-known authors of the time. Yet, in spite of its popularity, the Strand has attracted limited scholarly attention and is often dismissed as a prime example of the Victorian middlebrow. This special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review seeks to elicit original essays assessing the nature, role and significance of the Strand in the period 1891–1918. Possible contributions might address, but are not limited to, topics such as: Continue reading “CFP: Special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review: The Strand Magazine”

Review: Castlevania

** Warning: Here be plot spoilers **

OK, I’ll admit, the only things that are strictly (neo)Victorian in Netflix’s new Castlevania series are Dracula himself and an occasional Tesla coil. But I had a damn fine time with this series and I make the rules around here, so we’re going with it.

The series is adapted from Konami’s epic Castlevania series of videogames, which first appeared in 1986/7 on the Nintendo NES, to be followed by around 30 more titles over the next three decades and across multiple gaming platforms. Yet short of playing Symphony of the Night (which pioneered the ‘Metroidvania’ gaming style and adopted a cool, Yoshitaka Amano-inspired art style by Ayami Kojima) with school friends in the 90s, it’s safe to say my knowledge of the Castlevania franchise was limited and my expectations of an adaptation low.

Ayami Kojima, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
Continue reading “Review: Castlevania”

Call for Submissions: Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out

‘The boundary between the animal and the human has long been unstable, especially since the Victorian period. Where the boundary is drawn between human and animal is itself an expression of political power and dominance, and the “animal” can at once express the deepest fears and greatest aspirations of a society’ (Victorian Animal Dreams, 4).

‘The animal, like the ghost or good or evil spirit with which it is often associated, has been a manifestation of the uncanny’ (Timothy Clark, 185).

In the mid nineteenth-century Charles Darwin published his theories of evolution. And as Deborah Denenholz Morse and Martin A. Danahay suggest, ‘The effect of Darwin’s ideas was both to make the human more animal and the animal more human, destabilizing boundaries in both directions’ (Victorian Animal Dreams, 2). Nineteenth-century fiction quickly picked up on the idea of the ‘animal within’ with texts like R.L. Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau. In these novels the fear explored was of an unruly, defiant, degenerate and entirely amoral animality lying (mostly) dormant within all of us. This was our animal-other associated with the id: passions, appetites and capable of a complete disregard for all taboos and any restraint. As Cyndy Hendershot states, this ‘animal within’ ‘threatened to usurp masculine rationality and return man to a state of irrational chaos’ (The Animal Within, 97). This however, relates the animal to the human in a very specific, anthropocentric way. Non-humans and humans have other sorts of encounters too, and even before Darwin humans have often had an uneasy relationship with animals. Rats, horses, dogs, cats, birds and other beasts have, as Donna Haraway puts it, a way of ‘looking back’ at us (When Species Meet,19).  Continue reading “Call for Submissions: Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out”

CFP: Punch Conference: Women in Punch 1841 – 1920

Thursday 2 November 2017, Senate House

Punch: or the London Charivari first appeared in 1841, published as a weekly magazine with a strong political agenda. Although some work has been done on the social reform agenda of Punch, very little is known about women in the magazine. Were there any women contributors? What representations of women appeared in the magazine, both in images and text? Women were certainly a subject for humour and caricature in Punch, but what were the political implications of those comic illustrations? What was the role played by verse in the depiction of women? Did the representation of women change significantly between 1841 and 1910, and if so, how and why? How do the caricatures and/or depictions of women in Punch differ or resemble those in other illustrated papers, such as the Comic Almanack (1835-1853), The Illustrated London News (1842-1989), the Man in the Moon (1847-1849), and Fun (1861-1901)? Queen Victoria subscribed to Punch; did it have many women subscribers and/or readers? How was the ‘New Women’ reported in the pages of the magazine? Was Punch interested in female education or the entry of women into the professions? Continue reading “CFP: Punch Conference: Women in Punch 1841 – 1920”

CFP: ‘War of the Worlds: Transnational Fears of Invasion and Conflict 1870-1933’

One-day international workshop organised by the Invasion Network at Lancaster University, 8th September 2017.

Call for Papers Deadline: 31st July 2017 

Key-note speaker: Professor Emeritus David Glover

Confirmed speakers include: Michael Hughes, Michael Matin and Antony Taylor

Continue reading “CFP: ‘War of the Worlds: Transnational Fears of Invasion and Conflict 1870-1933’”

CFP: Gothic gardens and the ecocritical uncanny, 1850-1920.

Gardens and their contexts were continually reassessed throughout the nineteenth century in form, content and significance as ownership, technologies and affective aesthetics shifted throughout the period. If, as Heather Sullivan posits, ‘place’ should be considered in the light of ‘material processes … continually occurring all around, through, and in us,’ the garden-place is a concentrated site of material processes, of patterns, of bodily interactions and of sensory perception. Gardens occupy spaces where neither industry nor absence are fully realised, and the construction of a garden requires human and non-human negotiation; they are ‘porous’, to quote Catherine Alexander on the permanently transitory nature of gardens. However, the intimacy provided by controlling the space ‘also works as an unsettling reminder of human entanglement with other bodies: plants, animals, microorganisms’, as Niamh Downing reminds us. Favourite spots for hauntings, gardens are already haunted by aspects of what they were, their revelations and their persistence in spite of humankind. Victorian gardens, in the UK and in countries where English-style gardening was popular generate a particularly resonant interaction between matter and the immaterial, between stringent control and its opposite; disintegration, and even violence. Victorian ‘sensation’ fiction provides unnerving images of what might be underground, feeding Sergeant Cuff’s roses, for example, in The Moonstone, or concealing Lady Audley’s secret. Gardens can be cages, mazes of bewilderment, full of shades where sunlight never penetrates. Toru Dutt, away from her beloved Calcutta childhood garden, sees her favourite ‘casuarina tree’ appear like a wished-for ghost, hears it mourn her absence ‘in eerie speech.’ In particular, Victorian literature and art focuses on the relationship between exterior and interior, in bodily materiality, whether real or imagined, in sentient or non-sentient beings. Stacy Alaimo’s concept of ‘trans-corporeality’ has the potential for literal flourishing in gardens. Downing adds that ‘nature’ ‘is always and already uncanny, strange and excessive, especially when we get up close and intimate’. Perhaps there is nothing more intimate, more controlled, than the apparently safe order of flower beds and greenhouses. John Ruskin’s appreciation of Gothic disorder in architecture praised ‘the glory and the ruin of nature’, rather than the ‘inhuman completeness of mastery’; disorder, though, is a creeping thing as well as a glorious expression of freedom.

The essay collection will be published by Manchester University Press, as part of the International Gothic Series.

Papers are invited (6000-8000 words max.) on possible topics with an emphasis in material ecocriticism and ecogothic, which may include but are not limited to:

·         Animal presences in gardens, dead or alive, pets, undomesticated creatures, insects and others; birds, as messengers or harbingers.

·         Children in gardens, or their absence.

·         Trees, their spiritual significance, use as menacing presences, representations of order in otherwise disordered landscapes, their destruction and their potential to destroy or to influence events.

·         Types of plants in Gothic settings; ivy, evergreens, absence or presence of colour, plants that don’t thrive in particular places, significant flowers (e.g. roses, lilies).

·         Water in gardens; wells, ponds, fountains, streams; as uncanny presence, as disposal sites, as lures for the unwary.

·         The material presence of light and dark, sound and silence.

·         Garden buildings, sheds, outhouses and greenhouses, ruined or in working order.

·         Technology and its impact across the 19th century, in gardens and in the subsequent effects on literature; for example, the increasing use of poisons, and machines.

·         ‘Absent’ gardens; ‘secret’, ‘forsaken’, or ‘unloved’ gardens (or portions of gardens) and their representations as natural/unnatural voids or uncanny and persistent presences, or sites of transformation aided by non-human nature.

·         Gardeners, human, non-human and more than human.

·         Public gardens.

·         Garden design as a means of ‘unnatural’ control; materials (and people) used to enforce design schemes and their consequences.

·         ‘Non-native’ species in garden ecologies.


Please send draft or outline submissions, including the paper title, abstract (300 words) and c.v. to Sue Edney by 31st July 2017.

Event: Victorian Impacts

22-23 June 2017

A two-day event at the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. Organised under the aegis of the Scottish Centre for Victorian and Neo Victorian Studies (

Continue reading “Event: Victorian Impacts”

Call for Submissions: Making Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth-Century

Guest Editors:  Dr Katie Faulkner (The Courtauld Institute of Art and Arcadia University) Dr Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh)

This special issue of Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies will use ‘craft’ as a framework for understanding how various forms of masculinity were constructed and expressed during the long nineteenth-century (1789-1914) in Britain and internationally.

Deadline for completed manuscripts 30th October 2017 Continue reading “Call for Submissions: Making Masculinity: Craft, Gender, and Material Production in the Long Nineteenth-Century”

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑