This article focuses on the reimagining of Victorian London central to two recent, high-profile television adaptations, NBC / Sky Living’s Dracula (2013–14) and Showtime / Sky Atlantic’s Penny Dreadful (2014–). Paying attention to the series themselves and paratextual forms such as posters and title sequences, the article argues that both productions are more interested in responding to the popular Victorian Gothic image of the city than in carefully reconstructing a straightforward facsimile of nineteenth-century London. It shows, in fact, that this adaptation of the Victorian cityscape is presented in heightened, performative terms. Dracula and Penny Dreadful’s self-conscious approach to their Victorian London settings is related, on a textual level, to the playfully anarchic response of these adaptations to their literary sources and characters. More generally, it reflects recent contextual developments affecting the practice of adapting nineteenth-century texts.
Chris Louttit is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands. His main research and teaching interests are in Victorian fiction and its afterlives. He has recently published articles in Adaptation, Book History, and Neo-Victorian Studies. Another piece that reflects his interest in the neo-Victorian Gothic city, ‘Tim Burton’s Pop-Victorian Gothic’, is forthcoming in Gothic Studies, and he is co-editing a 2017 special issue of Neo-Victorian Studies with Erin Louttit called ‘Screening the Victorians in the Twenty-First Century’.