Laura Morgan Green


Kathleen Coyne Kelly, Patrick R. Mullen

Date of Award


Date Accepted


Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department or Academic Unit

College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Department of English.


adaptation, Doyle, H.G. Wells, mad scientist, realism, Victorian


English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies | Literature in English, British Isles


In the late Victorian period, approaching the fin de siècle, popular fiction frequently featured what critics would now call mad scientists. These mad scientist characters served as a vehicle for Victorian authors to explore the epistemological relationship between humans and the material world, often highlighting the shortcomings of the human eye or subjective perception of reality. By tracing the scientific and supernatural discourses surrounding representations of scientists featured in works by H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle, this revisionist literary history demonstrates that Victorian popular fiction and "classic realist" novels share a common interest in human perceptions and representations of a material reality. Arguing that the genre categories traditionally applied to these texts are permeable and unstable, Testing Reality's Limits continues work begun by scholars, such as George Levine, who redefined Victorian realism as a self-conscious experiment rather than a naively mimetic practice, and addresses literature not yet studied by such scholars.

While the project is rooted in literary criticism and Victorian literature, it also engages with contemporary popular culture and cinema. Each chapter concludes with a detailed analysis of notable film and television adaptations of each novel discussed, to place Victorian realism in context. By incorporating an adaptation studies perspective, the research offers a better understanding of both Victorian and contemporary trends, viewing popular culture as a series of intertextual relationships and an evolving history rather than isolated cultural moments.

Document Type


Rights Holder

Jennifer Sopchockchai Bankard

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