Negative traits: the uncanny, bizarre and horrific in nineteenth century photographs

Warren, Treena Kay (2018) Negative traits: the uncanny, bizarre and horrific in nineteenth century photographs. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (28MB)


This thesis explores manifestations of the uncanny, bizarre and horrific in Victorian photographs. It follows the broad narrative trajectory of the development of horror as a literary genre, tracking the same path through photographic images. Using close reading and analysis of both texts and pictures I examine the interplay between narrative and image, looking at how these forms influenced each other’s expression of the nineteenth century cultural fascination with the strange and terrifying.

Chapter one examines the spatial character of the horrific in early Gothic writing and includes a close reading of the 1856 publication of A Photographic Tour Among the Abbeys of Yorkshire by Joseph Cundall and Philip H. Delamotte to illuminate how ideas of cultural heritage and picturesque art converged with constructions of the uncanny in photography.

Chapter two looks at the phenomenon of the human freak in the context of Darwinian notions of evolution. I look at the influence of animal imagery and textual representation on the construction of uncanny human-animal hybrids.

Chapter three continues the discussion of how human freaks disrupt the conventional human-animal divide and explores how the freak show was an arena of fantasy influenced by fairytales and children’s fiction of the period.

Chapter four examines early medical photographs from the archives of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital to look at specifically at the abject horrors of the body.

My conclusion argues that all the themes explored in the previous chapters are consolidated in the Victorian cultural perception of the criminal, and points the way toward further research into historical photographs of crime scenes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR0161 By period > PR0401 Modern > PR0451 19th century > PR0468.G68 Gothic revival (Literature)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2018 06:13
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update