Royce Mahawatte

Cultural Studies, London
Fellowship: 01.10.2018–31.03.2019


Royce Mahawatte (DPhil Oxford) is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London. His research interests are Victorian fiction, the Gothic and cultures of fashion and the white raced body. He is currently working on a monograph about the fashioned male body and Victorian writing of which his work at the Morphomata Centre will form part.

Fields of Research

  • English Literature
  • Victorian Cultural/Fashion Critical Studies
  • Masculinity
  • Biography
  • Genre


Project outline

Strategies of emulation and embodiment: life imagining, society portraits and the fashionable novel 1825-1840


This project will explore the relationship between social aspiration and the unstable biographical literary energies of the Regency period. The body of the British, post-Napoleonic gentleman was shaped by emerging fashion media and popular literary genres of the period. I will focus particularly on life-imagining texts, which created allure or aversion in readers as a means of embourgeoisment. Along with fashion magazines, three works of fiction will be examined: Robert Plumer Ward’s »Tremaine« (1825) and Edward Bulwer Lytton’s »Pelham« (1828). These are examples of fashionable fiction, or ›silver-fork novels,‹ a genre that told of the social climbing pursuits and consumption practices of often thinly disguised, real-life figures. The third will be Samuel Warren’s »Diary of a Late Physician« (1837), a fictional medical memoir that also centres on fashionable life. Drawing methods from social theory and literary analysis, I aim to explore Regency/Victorian emulation, self-presentation, especially through the depiction of the suit or the afflicted body. I seek to explore the social role of popular fiction. During the course of the Fellowship, I will produce one theoretical/methodological essay on modes of life-imagining and the way in which it creates hyperreal narratives that have an impact on the body. The main piece of research will be a critical close-reading of these examples and how they engage with the broader culture to create new biographical formations that consolidate fashioned identity and status within a time of social and economic change.


Publications (Selection)


  • In progress: The Anxiety of Elitism: The Body of the Nineteenth-Century Gentleman - Fashion, Muscularity and Whiteness [working title].
  • George Eliot and the Gothic Novel (University of Wales Press, 2013).


Book Chapters

  • »The dandy novel as fashion text: Edward Bulwer Lytton’s Pelham (1828) and fashion editorial« in Fashion and Material Culture in Victorian Fiction and Periodicals: New Paths in Victorian Fiction and Culture Series (London, Edward Everett Root Publishers, 2018).
  • »The Sad Fortunes of ›Stylish Things‹: George Eliot and the Languages of Fashion« in Communicating Transcultural Fashion Narratives. Image, Identity, Ideology edited by Karaminas, Vicki, Anne Pierson-Smith and Joseph Hancock. (Intellect Press: Bristol, 2018).  
  • »Fashion and Adornment« in A Cultural History of Hair in the Modern Age (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017).
  • »Daniel Deronda’s Jewish Panic« in Queering the Gothic, ed. William Huges and Andrew Smith (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2009).
  • »Hair and Fashioned Femininity in Two Nineteenth-Century Novels« in Hair: Styling, Culture and Fashion, ed. Sarah Chang and Geraldine Biddle-Perry (Oxford, Berg 2008).
  •  »Loving the Other: Arab Fetish Pornography and the Dark Continent of Masculinity« in More Dirty Looks: Gender, Power and Pornography, ed. Pamela Church Gibson (London, British Film Institute, 2004).


Journal Articles 

  • »›life that is not clad in the same coat-tails and flounces‹: the silver fork novel, George Eliot and the fear of the material« in Women’s Writing Special Issue: Silver Fork Novels, ed. Tamara Wagner, August 2009 19: 1, 323-344.
  • »›Beautiful lips kissing holy skulls and other emptinesses ecclesiastically enshrined‹: The Counterfeit Gothic Heroine in Middlemarch« in Gothic Studies Nov 2008 10: 2: 121-136.