Fantastic Beasts and Where to Print Them: Monsters in Victorian Newspapers

PI: Michael Horton

Supervisors: Dr Bob Nicholson, Dr Laura Eastlake, and Dr Mari Hughes-Edwards.

Harpies roaming Spain, Mud-Vampires in Texas, Man-eating plants in Madagascar, Sea-Serpents off Norway: while we might expect to find monsters of this nature in medieval and early-modern print culture, when the uncharted edges of maps still bore illustrations of mythological creatures and warnings that “here be dragons”, surprisingly reports about preternatural creatures and unusual happenings continued to be published in Victorian newspapers.

By exploring press representations of monsters, mythical creatures, and other preternatural phenomenon in the Victorian press, which collectively this project will coin as ‘weird news’, this thesis will prove that this understudied genre of journalism is a valuable resource for understanding Victorian perspectives of gender, geography, imperialism, science, the supernatural and the news itself. This is because these monsters and phenomena are formed from, and expose: the anxieties, the beliefs, the hopes and fears, the very dreams of the people and the age that spawned them.

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