Picture Stories, 1840-1860, or Problems with Photographs

Potter, Jonathan (2020) Picture Stories, 1840-1860, or Problems with Photographs. Victorian Popular Fictions Journal, 2 (2). pp. 59-75. ISSN 2632-4253

5-VPFJ-vol-2-issue-2-Autumn-2020-Potter-Picture-Stories.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (311kB)


“Picture” stories, a whole genre of short fiction denoted by the central role of a picture, were common in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, from the 1840s to the 1860s. They featured in periodicals publishing fiction aimed towards middle- and lower-class readers, such as Ainsworth’s Magazine, Chamber’s Edinburgh Journal, Bentley’s Miscellany, and Sharpe’s London Magazine of Entertainment and Instruction for General Reading. Titles usually made the genre obvious: e.g. “The Story of a Picture” (1842), “The Fatal Picture” (Elder 1843), “The Adventures of a Picture” (Medwin 1843), “The Unfinished Picture: A Reverie” (Kenney 1845), “The Lost Picture” (1853), “The Unowned Picture” (1856), and “Memoirs of an Old Picture” (1859). Many of the “pictures” in these stories of the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s are paintings, but not all. Picture stories about photographs often worked in radically different ways from those stories about paintings, with photographs posing a new set of problems for viewers. This essay is about how writers of picture stories explored those problems, and aims to uncover how and why paintings and photographs work differently within this genre of short fiction.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.46911/BUWD1106
1 October 2020Accepted
25 October 2020Published Online
Uncontrolled Keywords: Short stories; photography; painting; visual media; literary form; visuality; cartes-de-visite; stereoscopes; Victorian periodicals.
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-01 - English studies (non-specific)
CAH20 - historical, philosophical and religious studies > CAH20-01 - history and archaeology > CAH20-01-01 - history
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Media and English > School of English
Depositing User: Jonathan Potter
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2020 12:16
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 15:59
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10219

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


In this section...