Skip to content

Dr Christopher Pittard

Senior Lecturer

Christopher Pittard
Relations

Biography

I joined the University of Portsmouth in 2009, having held previous positions at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter. My main research focus is on the popular culture of the nineteenth century, especially the emergence of popular genres in the Victorian fin de siecle and detective fiction in particular. I have published widely in this field, including articles in Studies in the Novel, Victorian Periodicals Review, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, Victoriographies, Women: A Cultural Review, Humanities, and Clues: A Journal of Detection.

My first book, Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction (2011; reissued in paperback by Routledge 2016), arose out of an AHRC funded project at the University of Exeter and considers how detective fiction published in 1890s periodicals engaged with ideas of material and social purity, ranging from Sherlock Holmes cleaning the face of criminality in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” to the moral policing carried out by the Social Purity movements and late Victorian antivivisection campaigns. An early version of part of this work, on Doyle and the Strand Magazine, won the 2006 RSVP Van Arsdel Prize. My research in detective fiction led to a second AHRC funded project in 2013-16, Possession and Obsession: The Case of Arthur Conan Doyle, working with Portsmouth City Council to utilise the Arthur Conan Doyle collection (Lancelyn Green Bequest). This project informed my most recent major publication, The Cambridge Companion to Sherlock Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 2019), co-edited with Janice M. Allan.

My wider interests in popular culture and Victorian fiction are also served by my work on the editorial boards of The Journal of Popular Culture,  Victoriographies, Clues: A Journal of Detection, and the Victorian Popular Fiction Assocation; and peer review for the Wellcome Trust, publishers including Oxford University Press, Edinburgh University Press, Routledge, Blackwell, Broadview and Palgrave, and a range of journals including PMLA, Genre, Victorian Periodicals Review, Journal of Neo-Victorian Studies, and Configurations. Between 2010-15 I was a faculty member of the Dickens Project, University of California Santa Cruz. 

Reviews for Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction

“[There is] much to relish in a work that is both theoretically informed and rigorously grounded in primary research... The effort to clean up dirt, to restore it to its rightful place, is a way of 'reordering our environment' in order to 'make it conform to an idea'. This is a provocative way of thinking about detective fiction, and Pittard makes it pay... richly suggestive” Times Literary Supplement 13 April 2012

"Pittard convincingly revises some of the most familiar arguments in the field. Foucauldian readings of the genre, the relationship between Victorian science and crime fiction, and Victorian science and questions of form all come in for revisionary treatment.... [Pittard's] interest lies in figuring out where the theoretical conversation about detective fiction goes from here, several decades now after D. A. Miller's The Novel and the Police. Pittard does this playfully in his intriguing book." Victorian Studies 56.1 (2013).

Purity and Contamination is rich in ideas, analysis, and information, offering new perspectives on familiar texts and introducing archival material that has received little if any critical attention.... There has been much written on late-Victorian detective fiction, but Pittard takes an innovative approach.... a masterly revisioning of [Victorian crime] narratives.”  Review of English Studies 63.261 Sept 2012

Research Interests

My current major research project is Literary Illusions, a consideration of conjuring and secular magic in Victorian and Edwardian fiction, reading the work of Dickens, Henry Cockton, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Max Beerbohm, among others. This work draws upon various critical perspectives (such as the Freudian uncanny and Derrida’s analysis of ‘conjurement’) to theorise secular magic as a narrative, and combine these approaches with the attention to material culture that characterises my research.

I welcome PhD applications in the fields of Victorian studies, Victorian popular culture, detective fiction, Victorian science and medicine, and nineteenth century periodicals.

ID: 28058