CFA: ‘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. We are looking for articles that focus on both the content and the contexts of popular journalism. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

  • The journalism of Wilkie Collins and other popular authors
  • The relationships between fact and fiction, journalists and novelists, authors’ articles and novels
  • The creation and distribution of daily / weekly / monthly newspapers, magazines and periodicals
  • How different publishing formats inform journalistic style and content
  • Journalistic networks: sources, writers, editors, printers, distributors
  • Local, European, Trans-Atlantic and International publishing arrangements
  • Journalism’s relationship to literature, advertorials and correspondence
  • Popular journalists’ oeuvre and their standing in the field
  • The place of journalism in sustaining a literary career
  • Journalistic earnings, pen names, anonymous writing
  • Journalistic favouritism and feuds
  • Sensational journalism and other strategies
  • Theorizing popular journalism: high / low brow journalism
  • Digitization, popular journalism and periodical studies
  • Journalism’s relationship to gender, class, race, disability etc.
  • Popular journalistic topics: politics/political satire, The Woman Question, social injustice, animals and their treatment, fashion and culture, reviews, exposés

Please e-mail abstracts of 500 words to and by Friday 31st March 2017.

Full articles of 5-8,000 words in MLA format due: Friday 28th July 2017.

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

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 five 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 ‘Dressing Across a Personal Life Course’, postulates that fashion’s engagement with sartorial, sensational and dramatic literature critiques the perceived value of women’s experiences. The final section, ‘Consumption and Fashionable Performance’ considers periodicals, authors and genres 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:

Key Popular Women Writers

General Editors: Dr. Janine Hatter  and Dr. Helena Ifill

This innovative new series will deliver original and transformative feminist research into the work of leading women writers who were widely read in their time, but who have been under-represented in the canon.

The series will offer critical, historical and aesthetic contributions to current literary and theoretical work. Each volume will concentrate on one writer. The first six titles will be on Mary Braddon, Mrs. Henry Wood, Rhoda Broughton, Marie Corelli, Florence Marryat, and Charlotte Riddell.

Each volume in this series will explore the careers, writing practices and work of popular women writers, through a lens informed by contemporaneous and contemporary feminist thought. It will interrogate the ways in which women writers, their creative processes and published material can be considered feminist, and explore how recent developments in feminist theory can enrich our understanding of popular women’s lives and literature.

This series will both rethink established popular writers and their works, and rediscover and re-evaluate authors who have been largely neglected, often since their initial burst of success in their own historical period. This neglect is often due to the exclusivity and insular nature of the canon which has its roots in the Victorian critical drive to perpetuate a division between high and low culture.

In response, our definition of the “popular” is broadly interpreted to encompass women writers who were read by large sections of the public, and who wrote for the mass publishing market. The series therefore challenges this arbitrary divide, creating a new and dynamic dialogue regarding the canon’s expansion by introducing readers to previously under-researched women writers who were nevertheless prolific, known and influential.

Studying the work of these authors can tell us much about women’s writing, creativity and publishing practice, and about how popular fiction intervened in pressing political, social and cultural issues surrounding gender, history and women’s role in society.

This is an important and timely series that is inspired by, interrogates, and speaks to a new wave of feminism, new definitions of sex and gender, and new considerations of intersectionality.

It also reflects growing interest in popular fiction, and a feminist desire to broaden and diversify the literary canon.

Ultimately the series seeks to shed light on women writers whose work deserves greater recognition, to facilitate and inspire further research, and to pave the way for introducing these key women writers into the canon and the modern-day classroom.

Publisher: Edward Everett Root Publishers




‘Gender in Victorian Popular Fiction, Art and Culture’Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, special issue edited by Janine Hatter and Helena Ifill (Autumn 2016)

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.