Victorian Gaslighting

Photo of Nora Gilbert

"As someone who co-specializes in Victorian literature and early Hollywood film, I’ve long been a fan of the darkly disturbing 1944 film Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. But it was when the term “gaslighting” started popping up everywhere in contemporary discourse that I took to teaching, writing, and talking about the film as often as I could. One thing that’s of particular interest to me is the fact that Gaslight is ostentatiously set in Victorian London. This setting is not only intrinsic to the plot insofar as it revolves around the gas-based lighting technology that reached its peak in the late nineteenth century, but also because it serves as a hauntingly appropriate backdrop for the narrative's representations of marital violence, domestic confinement, psychological manipulation, and other mainstays of Victorian fiction. During the first session of this series, I will provide an overview of an essay collection that I’m currently co-editing with Diana Bellonby and Tara MacDonald called Victorian Gaslighting: Genealogy of an Injustice, in which we trace the genealogy of gaslighting back to its Victorian roots by bringing together fourteen essays that examine a wide range of nineteenth-century literary texts through the lens of gaslighting. During the second session, we will have an in-depth discussion of the 1944 film version of Gaslight itself, which captures the “maddening” feeling of this particular form of emotional abuse so gut-wrenchingly well."

Nora Gilbert is an associate professor of English at the University of North Texas. She is the author of Better Left Unsaid: Victorian Novels, Hays Code Films, and the Benefits of Censorship (2013) and Gone Girls, 1684-1901: Flights of Feminist Resistance in the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Novel (2023), as well as a number of other essays on Victorian literature and classical Hollywood film. Since 2017, she has served as the editor of the journal Studies in the Novel. She is the 2024 Spring Friends of the Dickens Project Faculty Fellow.


Virtual Sessions

Victorian Gaslighting Sessions
Book Talk: Victorian Gaslighting: Genealogy of an Injustice April 14, 2024
1:00 PM PDT
Discussion: Gaslight (1944)
Movie directed by George Cukor, starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and Joseph Cotten
May 19, 2024
1:00 PM PDT
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