Professor Deborah Wynne

Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature


BA, MPhil, PhD, FHEA


I am Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Director of Research for the English Department. My current research projects have emerged from an interest in textile cultures in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, particularly the ways in which novelists represented the role of cloth in social life.  I received an AHRC Fellowship in 2013-14 which allowed me to work on my Literary Fabrics project, and during that year I researched how writers represented textile manufacture, clothing, needlework and tapestry, as well as the retailing and trading of textiles (considering secondhand clothes dealers, drapers and cotton magnates). My study shows that Victorian and Edwardian writers employed textile imagery and language to indicate the ways in which society was itself a ‘fabric’. I have done research on Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, William Morris, H.G. Wells and Arnold Bennett. This has resulted in a number of articles: one on rags and recycling in Dickens’s work, another on Edwardian drapers in the work of Wells and Bennett, and an essay focusing on the life-writing of men involved in the drapery trade. My research on Victorian material culture also informs my teaching: as well as encouraging students to explore the key roles played by objects in nineteenth-century literature and culture, I also teach thing theory as an important new approach to contemporary fiction and film.


I specialise in nineteenth-century literature, theory, and women’s writing. I have taught on the following modules:

  • Victorian Literature
  • Language and Gender
  • Reading Contemporary Fiction and Film Through Theory
  • Nineteenth-Century Literature: The Canon and Beyond
  • Research Methods

Postgraduate supervision:

I have supervised three PhD students to successful completion and am currently supervising two doctoral candidates. All of my graduate students work in the fields of Victorian literature and culture. I have also supervised several Masters dissertations on nineteenth-century topics. I welcome enquiries about research projects on:

  • Nineteenth-century literature and culture
  • Nineteenth-century women writers
  • Charles Dickens
  • Charlotte Brontë
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Arnold Bennett
  • Costume drama and screen adaptations of nineteenth-century literature


As well as working on my AHRC-funded Literary Fabrics: Textile Languages and Costume Dramas 1837-1914 project, I am also involved in other ventures. My interest in the relationship between literary texts and material culture informs my collaborative research with Amber Regis (at the University of Sheffield). We explore the afterlives of Victorian novels and novelists and have co-authored an essay on Miss Havisham in Neo-Victorian Studies in 2012, focusing on her remarkable wedding dress. Our new project is the co-editing of a book of essays focusing on Charlotte Brontë’s cultural impact called Charlotte Brontë: Afterlives and Legacies. This book will be published by Manchester University Press in 2016, the year of Brontë’s bicentenary, and I am writing a chapter about the development of the emotionally charged Charlotte Brontë cult which emerged in the decades after her death.

My books on Victorian literature and culture:

Women and Personal Property in the Victorian Novel (Ashgate, 2010).

A study of Victorian women and property, this book was supported by a generous AHRC research leave award for the academic year 2008-09. It focuses on the representations of women’s portable property in the work of Charles Dickens, Henry James and George Eliot. For a review of the book in the journal Victorian Studies see:

The Sensation Novel and the Victorian Family Magazine (Palgrave, 2001)

My first book, The Sensation Novel and the Victorian Family Magazine was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2001, a development from my PhD thesis, written at the University of Keele (1994-7). Although I have not published subsequently on sensation fiction and periodicals, I continue to think about the fluid boundaries between popular and canonical fiction in Victorian culture.

As part of my Literary Fabrics project I organise a range of public engagement events and activities. I am the director of the Textile Stories Project, designed to harness contemporary interest in textiles, fashion, and costume dramas in order to raise awareness of the continuing relevance and significance of nineteenth-century literary texts, along with the role of costume and textiles in screen adaptations.

UoC 175th Anniversary Quilt

The University of Chester’s 175th Anniversary Quilt (the focus of the  2015 Textile Stories Study Day) Photographed by Fiona Roberts, organiser of the Quilt Project.

The Textile Stories Project has a blog:


I have also published journal articles and book chapters:

‘The “Charlotte” Cult: Myths of Female Genius’ in Charlotte Brontë: Legacies and Afterlives (eds) Amber R. Regis and Deborah Wynne [forthcoming, Manchester University Press, 2016]

‘The “Despised Trade” in Textiles: H.G. Wells, William Paine, Charles Cavers and the Male Draper’s Life, 1870-1914’ [forthcoming Textile History 2015]

‘Charlotte Brontë’s Frocks and Shirley’s Queer Textiles’ in Literary Bric-a-Brac and the Victorians: From Commodities to Oddities (eds) Jonathon Shears and Jan Harrison (Ashgate, 2013): 147-163 [ISBN: 978-1-4094-3990-5]

Amber R. Regis and Deborah Wynne, ‘Miss Havisham’s Dress: Materialising Dickens in Film Adaptations of Great Expectations, Special Issue: The Other Dickens: Neo-Victorian Appropriation and Adaptation, Neo-Victorian Studies, 5:2 (2012): 35-58

‘Circulation and Stasis: Feminine Property in the Novels of Charles Dickens’, Dickens, Sexuality and Gender ed. Lillian Nayder (Ashgate, 2012): pp. 593-624 [ISBN 978-1-4094-3095-7]

‘Readers and Reading Practices’ in The Oxford History of the Novel in English: Vol. 3: The Nineteenth-Century Novel 1820-1880, ed. Jenny Bourne Taylor and John Kucich (Oxford University Press, 2011): pp. 22-36 [ISBN 978-0-19-956061-5]

‘Critical Responses to Sensation’ in A Companion to Sensation Fiction ed. Pamela Gilbert (Blackwell, 2011): pp. 389-400 [ISBN: 978-1-4051-9558-4]

‘The New Woman, Portable Property and The Spoils of Poynton’, The Henry James Review 31: 2 (May 2010): pp. 142-153

‘The Victorians’ in Studying English Literature, (eds) Ashley Chantler and David Higgins (Continuum, 2010).

The Spoils of Poynton’ in Critical Companion to Henry James: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, (eds) Kendall Johnson and Eric Haralson (Clearmark Books, 2009)

‘The Materialisation of the “Austen World”: Film Adaptations of Jane Austen’s Novels’, (ed.) Brian Baker, Textual Revisions (Chester Academic Press, 2009)

‘Equivocal Objects: The Problems of Property in Daniel Deronda’, in nineteen: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, (Spring, 2008)

‘Scenes of “Incredible Outrage”: Dickens, Ireland and A Tale of Two Cities’, Dickens Studies Annual vol. 37 (2006/7): pp. 51-64

‘Hysteria Repeating Itself: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Lois the Witch’, Women’s Writing, 12:1 (2005): 85-97.

‘Responses to the 1851 Great Exhibition in Household Words’, The Dickensian 455:97, Part 3 (Winter 2001/2): pp. 228-34

‘See What A Big Wide Bed It Is!: Mrs Henry Wood and the Philistine Imagination’ (eds) Emma Liggins and Daniel Duffy Feminist Readings of Victorian Popular Texts: Divergent Femininities(Ashgate, 2001)

‘“We Were Unhealthy and Unsafe”: Great Expectations and All The Year Round’s Anxiety Stories’,Journal of Victorian Culture (Spring, 2000): pp. 45-49

I am regularly asked to peer review for major academic publishers and journals. I have also reviewed books for Victorian Studies, Victorian ReviewJournal of Victorian CultureMLR, Literature Compass and Nineteenth-Century Contexts.