Emeritus Bookshelf

Victorian Vogue: British Novels on Screen
University of Minnesota Press, 2010

Dianne F. Sadoff


How British fiction on film arouses and allays contemporary fears about society

Ranging from cinematic images of Jane Austen’s estates to Oscar Wilde’s drawing rooms, Dianne F. Sadoff looks at popular heritage films, often featuring Hollywood stars, that have been adapted from nineteenth-century novels.

Victorian Vogue argues that heritage films perform different cultural functions at key historical moments in the twentieth century. According to Sadoff, they are characterized by a double historical consciousness—one that is as attentive to the concerns of the time of production as to those of the Victorian period. If James Whale’s Frankenstein and Tod Browning’s Dracula exploited post-Depression fear in the 1930s, the horror films of the 1950s used the genre to explore homosexual panic, 1970s movies elaborated the sexuality only hinted at in the thirties, and films of the 1990s indulged the pleasures of consumption.

Taking a broad view of the relationships among film, literature, and current events, Sadoff contrasts films not merely with their nineteenth-century source novels but with crucial historical moments in the twentieth century, showing their cultural use in interpreting the present, not just the past.

"Dianne F. Sadoff's book promises to be the definitive work on film adaptations of nineteenth-century fiction. It is wide-ranging and strikingly intelligent, has an important thesis, and best of all, is fun to read."
—Jay Clayton, author of Charles Dickens in Cyberspace

"Sadoff clearly has her chops in literature, film and postmodern theory."
—Times Higher Education