Introductory Blog from Hayley Braithwaite, PGR Rep

I am thrilled to be able to take on the role of PGR Representative for the G.W.M. Reynolds Society. I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Mary Shannon and Jenny Conary for their help and advice during the handover period, as well as all those who have wished me good luck over the past month! I am so excited to connect with fellow Reynolds enthusiasts and to help bring more attention to the life and work of this fascinating figure!

I am currently in the second year of my doctoral studies at the University of York where, under the supervision of Dr Alison O’Byrne and Dr Deborah Russell, I am researching Reynolds’s engagement with the gothic in The Mysteries of London/The Mysteries of the Court of London.

I first encountered Reynolds and his work during my undergraduate studies. Whilst undertaking research for my dissertation, I stumbled upon a reference to The Mysteries of London and was instantly captivated by the author’s description of this bestselling, politically-radical penny blood. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of The Mysteries or of Reynolds beforehand and immediately had to know more. I would have to wait until I began working on my Masters dissertation, however, to truly dive into the world of Reynolds. When it came time to decide on a topic for my dissertation, I ordered a copy of volume one of The Mysteries of London and began reading. It didn’t take me long to determine that this was the text I wanted my dissertation to focus on. Not only did I struggle to put the book down (Reynolds’s is a master of the cliff-hanger!), the text was also endlessly academically stimulating. I had never read anything that sat so perfectly at the intersection of each and every one of my research interests.

The project I developed for my MA dissertation eventually became the basis for my PhD research. I feel so grateful to be able to spend my time researching an author and a topic I am so passionate about.

My doctoral project is the first sustained analysis of Reynolds’s innovative use of the gothic within The Mysteries series. Specifically, my research traces how Reynolds exposes the contemporary city’s institutions and practices as inherently gothic. Used primarily as a tool of political critique, the gothic tropes employed by Reynolds, I argue, are not presented as reimagined relics of an earlier literary tradition, but rather as having been generated by the realities of modern London. Through my research I aim, thus, to reconsider the penny serial’s role in the development of nineteenth-century gothic fiction, and examine Reynolds’s ability to respond to, and shape, reader’s anxieties, excitement, and unease about the rapidly transforming city.

More generally, my research interests include: Romantic and Victorian-era gothic literature, radical print culture, penny fiction, and the Victorian City. I am a member of both BAVS and BARS, and (after receiving York’s Charles Dickens scholarship whilst studying for my MA) am affiliated with the University of California’s Dickens Project. At York, I work closely with the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies and am a member of the centre’s postgraduate forum organising team.

Through my work with the Reynolds Society, I hope to be able to continue to raise awareness of Reynolds’s writing, political activity, and impact on Victorian culture. I look forward to engaging with Reynolds scholars and enthusiasts worldwide and to contributing to this amazing community!


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