‘Victorian Popular Journalism’, Wilkie Collins Journal (Winter 2018)

Guest Editors: Drs Janine Hatter and Helena Ifill

 I hope nobody will be shocked, but it is only proper that I should confess, before writing another line, that I am about to disclose the existence of a Disreputable Society […] Our object is to waste our time, misemploy our intellects, and ruin our morals; or, in other words, to enjoy the prohibited luxury of novel-reading. (Wilkie Collins, ‘A Petition to the Novel-Writers’, Household Words, 1856)

These tongue-in-cheek words came from the pen of Wilkie Collins at a time when he was producing numerous articles, many of them for Charles Dickens’ popular periodical, Household Words. With a healthy dash of irony, Collins (in his role as a writer of non-fiction) casts aspersions on the value of fiction (the field in which he was hoping to make a lasting name for himself, and indeed soon would with the publication of The Woman in White). In doing so, Collins raises implicit questions about the relationship between journalism and fiction and about hierarchies of literary form. While Collins’s move into fiction suggests he prized one genre over the other, his journalism demonstrates his versatility – a trait that can be seen in the work of many authors (such as Margaret Oliphant, not to mention Dickens) who also supported themselves through their journalist outputs. His journalism covers travel writing, social commentary and satire, art and history, personal anecdotes, biographical sketches, and much more. As with his novels, Collins aimed to make his journalism both entertaining and socially-engaged. This element of his body of work remains largely untouched by modern critics, as do the journalistic works of many Victorian popular authors. This special issue seeks to explore the journalism of Wilkie Collins and other Victorian popular authors, and more broadly to review the role of popular journalism in Victorian society.

Further information is available at the journal site:

The Wilkie Collins Journal is an online, peer-reviewed academic journal committed to publishing innovative and rigorous research into one of the most successful and important authors of the nineteenth century, as well as his related authors, periodicals and genres broadly defined.

 Fashion and Material Culture in Victorian Fiction and Periodicals

Ed. Janine Hatter and Nickianne Moody

Due to be published Spring 2018
Fashion and Material Culture - Image

As part of the New Paths in Victorian Popular Fiction and Culture series, Fashion and Material Culture aims to examine dress, style and performance as a significant pleasure of fiction. As an aesthetic medium, fashion expresses a person’s life course, their ideas, desires and beliefs, and fiction itself is a site where these issues can be resolved. Not only were characters made recognisable through their dress, but readers of serial fiction encountered them in between adverts, cartoons, print and patterns. Thus, how dress is depicted in fiction responds to its material paratext. Furthermore, Victorian dress and literature equally licensed or discouraged particular forms of clothing, fantasies and moralities about men and women, as well as distinctions between generations. As a result, this volume’s multidisciplinary approach acknowledges and engages with theoretical perspectives on dress history, periodical publications, archives and dress collections to illuminates these facets of Victorian life.

Split into four distinct sections, this volume engages with fashion and material culture not only from an interdisciplinary methodology, but also through fashion’s multiple performances as depicted in text, image and design. Part 1, ‘Fashion and Hierarchies of Knowledge’ examines how periodicals, journalism and couture established ‘fashion’ as a discipline. Part 2’s ‘Artistic Engagement with Fashion’s Material Culture’ focuses on how fabric, printed patterns and illustrations critique social constructions of beauty and femininity. In Part 3, ‘Conduct and Clothing’, novelistic depictions of fashion with regards to scientific, racial and gender identities are cross-related to reader consumption and behaviour. Part 4’s ‘Consumption and Fashionable Performance’ considers periodicals, genres and drama as performative in their own right. Overall, this edited collection examines the ways in which Victorian writers, illustrators, periodicals, designers and clothing manufacturers have critiqued the social ideologies inherent in dress, fashion and imaginative engagement with clothes.

The collection will be published with Edward Everett Root Publishers, who are also publishing the Key Popular Women Writers series, under the general editorship of Helena Ifill and Janine Hatter. The founder, John Spiers, used to run Harvester Press, and you can find out more about the publisher here:


‘Gender in Victorian Popular Fiction, Art and Culture’

Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies

Special issue edited by Janine Hatter and Helena Ifill (Autumn 2016)

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Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies is a peer-reviewed, online journal committed to publishing insightful and innovative scholarship on gender studies and nineteenth-century British literature, art and culture.

This special issue examines all aspects of the relationship between gender and the “popular”. Popular fiction in the nineteenth century was repeatedly, and often negatively, associated with women and femininity, perceived as a mass of “silly novels by lady novelists” (George Eliot). Existing scholarship (by critics such as Solveig R. Robinson and Jennifer Phegley) has already done much to challenge the old Victorian notion that popular fiction was second-rate literature produced by a second-class gender. This issue reassesses and reinvigorates the relationship between popular fiction and the feminine, but also goes beyond this in order to interrogate the interactions between gender and popular genres more broadly.