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Gothic fiction, from shilling shockers to penny bloods

Mandal, Anthony 2020. Gothic fiction, from shilling shockers to penny bloods. In: Townshend, Dale, Wright, Angela and Catherine Spooner eds. The Cambridge History of the Gothic, Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 139-161. (10.1017/9781108561082.007)

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Though it comprised the most circulated and consumed artefacts of the nineteenth-century literary marketplace, Gothic ‘street’ fiction nonetheless has occupied a critical blindspot in literary histories. Notwithstanding their evanescence, short, cheap Gothic works proliferated from the 1770s to the 1880s, appearing in millions of copies to satisfy the demands of a rapidly expanding reading public. This chapter explores the development of street literature, from its early, short bluebook format (1780–1830) to its later incarnation as the penny blood serial (1840–1870). The origins of street Gothic in prose forms and the print culture dynamics are considered, alongside close analysis of key themes, plots and tropes of the bluebooks and penny bloods. The chapter concludes by considering the twilight of street Gothic, with the emergence of the penny dreadful (1860–1900), which was aimed at a juvenile male audience. While literary scholarship has dismissed both as minor, derivative examples of Gothic literature, the chapter argues for the significant contribution made by a rich and dynamic network of authors and publishers.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781108561082
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2021 10:45

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