Dr. Lisa Surridge

Dr. Lisa Surridge

On Leave

Office: CLE C311

BA (Queen's), MA and PhD (Toronto)

Area of expertise

Victorian fiction and culture; illustrated Victorian serial fiction; legal writing

Lisa Surridge specializes in Victorian fiction and culture. She also teaches legal writing to lawyers, judges, and prosecutors in workshops and seminars across Canada.  Dr. Surridge is the winner of the 2009 Faculty of Humanities Teaching Award and the 2008 Faculty of Humanities Award for Research Excellence.

See her "Faces of UVic Research" video.

Lisa Surridge is the author of Bleak Houses: Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction (Ohio UP, 2005) and co-editor (with Richard Nemesvari) of M.E. Braddon's sensation novel Aurora Floyd (Broadview, 1998). Her articles and reviews have appeared in Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, Victorians Periodicals Review, Dickens Studies Annual, Victorian Review, Women's Writing, Victorians Institute Journal, University of Toronto Quarterly, and The Journal of the History of Sexuality. She is co-editor of the Broadview Anthology of Victorian Prose, 1832-1900, forthcoming 2012, and has contributed articles on Victorian illustrated fiction to the Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction (2012), the Blackwell Companion to Sensation Fiction (2011), and Dickens in Context (2011).

Selected book publications

Bleak Houses: Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction

Ohio UP, 2005.

The Offenses Against the Person Act of 1828 opened magistrates' courts to abused working-class wives. Newspapers in turn reported on these proceedings, and in this way the Victorian scrutiny of domestic conduct began. But how did popular fiction treat "private" family violence? Bleak Houses: Marital Violence in Victorian Fiction traces novelists' engagement with the wife-assault debates in the public press between 1828 and the turn of the century.

Lisa Surridge examines the early works of Charles Dickens and reads Dombey and Son and Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in the context of the intense debates on wife assault and manliness in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Surridge explores George Eliot's Janet's Repentance in light of the parliamentary debates on the 1857 Divorce Act. Marital cruelty trials provide the structure for both Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White and Anthony Trollope's He Knew He Was Right.

Locating the New Woman fiction of Mona Caird and the reassuring detective investigations of Sherlock Holmes in the context of late-Victorian feminism and the great marriage debate in the Daily Telegraph, Surridge illustrates how fin-de-sicle fiction brought male sexual violence and the viability of marriage itself under public scrutiny. Bleak Houses thus demonstrates how Victorian fiction was concerned about the wife-assault debates of the nineteenth century, debates which both constructed and invaded the privacy of the middle-class home.


M. E. Braddon's Aurora Floyd, ed. Richard Nemesvari and Lisa Surridge

Broadview Press, 1998

Aurora Floyd is one of the leading novels in the genre known as sensation fiction, a tradition in which the key texts include Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, Ellen Wood's East Lynne, and Dickens's Great Expectations. When Aurora Floyd was first published in serial form in 1862-63, Fraser's Magazine asserted that "a book without a murder, a divorce, a seduction, or a bigamy, is not apparently considered either worth writing or reading; and a mystery and a secret are the chief qualifications of the modern novel."

The novel depicts a heroine trapped in an abusive and adulterous marriage, and effectively dramatizes the extra-legal pressures which kept many such unhappy marriages out of the courts: fear of personal scandal, and of betraying one's family through the publicity and expense of the process. Aurora's bigamous marriage dramatizes the need for expeditions divorce without the enormous social cost, but the overt sexuality of the heroine shocked contemporary critics. "What is held up to us as the story of the feminine soul as it really exists underneath its conventional coverings, is a very fleshy and unlovely record," wrote Margaret Oliphant.

Braddon's text is studded with references to contemporary events (the Crimean War, the Divorce Act of 1857) and the text has been carefully annotated for modern readers in this edition, which also includes a range of documents designed to help set the text in context.

Selected journal publications

Leighton, Mary E. and Lisa Surridge. "The Woman in White, White Space, and Mid-Victorian Print Technology." Actes du colloque des 2, 3 et 4 juin 2012. TextImage: revue d'etude du dialogue texte-image (Oct. 2012).