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The Victorian Period in Twenty-First Century Children’s Literature:

Representations and Revisions, Adaptations and Appropriations

A significant aim of contemporary literature for young people is to provide a window into a variety of historical periods and cultural milieus. Such representations of the past have educational, creative, and political resonances, reflecting both on historical periods and contemporary values. However, since the turn of the twenty-first century, we seem to have reached a critical mass of works for children that engage the Victorian period in particular.

Perhaps the most visible form that this trend has taken is Neo-Victorianism, a literary and cultural phenomenon that has shaped contemporary fiction for children and young adults through the general prevalence and popularity of Neo-Victorian series such as the Enola Holmes novels and the Gemma Doyle trilogy. A recent special issue on the child in Neo-Victorian Studies also indicates that the critical discussion inspired by this genre has specific implications for studies of youth culture.

However, Victorian influences and impulses extend beyond works that can be categorized as Neo-Victorian. Historical fiction and timeslip fantasy set in the Victorian period interact with the past through placing the modern reader in the position of the nineteenth-century child, while steampunk fiction imagines alternate histories and technologies that emerge from the nexus of Victorian culture. Contemporary texts also engage Victorian fiction through adaptations and retellings: films such as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Disney’s Treasure Planet (2002) reconfigure the iconic works of Lewis Carroll and Robert Louis Stevenson for a twenty-first century audience, as do intertextual retellings such as April Lindner’s Catherine and Cara Lockwood’s Wuthering High, both young adult novels that update and revise the narrative of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

This proposed volume seeks essays that analyze how twenty-first century texts for young audiences across a variety of media–including print, film, television, and digital formats–interact with Victorian literature and culture. What do such works reveal about contemporary understandings or assumptions regarding Victorian values and sensibilities? What has made the Victorian era such a productive and inspiring space for so many authors and young audiences of the twenty-first century? What is lost and what might be gained by reframing a text for Victorian adults for a contemporary audience of young people?

 Topics may include but are not limited to

▪       the Victorian text as intertext in contemporary literature

▪       neo-Victorian literature

▪       steampunk fiction

▪       representations of the Victorian past in time-slip fantasy and/or ghost stories

▪       contemporary retellings of iconic Victorian stories

▪       the portrayal of the Victorian period in contemporary nonfiction

▪       film adaptations of Victorian literature

▪       representations of Victorian cultural icons (Queen Victoria, Charles Darwin,  Jack the Ripper)

▪       Victorian sensibilities and aesthetics as influences on contemporary fiction

▪       historical fiction set in the Victorian period

We are currently seeking a book contract for this volume. Submit a 500-word abstract, along with a working bibliography and a brief, up-to-date CV by August 1, 2014 to Sara K. Day and Sonya Sawyer Fritz at Completed essays of 5000-7000 words will be due by March 1, 2015.