University of Wales Press publication reaches shortlist for prestigious Book Prize

Posted on 10 March 2010

The University of Wales Press is delighted to announce that its publication, 'Wilkie Collins, Medicine and the Gothic' by Laurence Talairach-Vielmas, has been shortlisted for the British Society for Literature and Science (BSLS) Book Prize.

The book examines how Wilkie Collins’s interest in medical matters developed in his writing through exploration of his revisions of the late eighteenth-century Gothic novel from his first sensational novels to his last work in the 1880s.

Throughout his career, Collins made changes in the prototypical Gothic scenario. The aristocratic villains, victimized maidens and medieval castles of classic Gothic tales were reworked and adapted to thrill his Victorian readership. With the advances of neuroscience and the development of criminology as a significant backdrop to most of his novels, Collins drew upon contemporary anxieties and increasingly used the medical to propel his criminal plots.

While the prototypical castles were turned into modern medical institutions, his heroines no longer feared ghosts but the scientist’s knife. This study hence underlines the way in which Collins’s Gothic revisions increasingly tackled medical questions, using the medical terrain to capitalize on the readers’ fears. It also demonstrates how Wilkie Collins’s fiction reworks Gothic themes and presents them through the prism of contemporary scientific, medical and psychological discourses; from debates revolving around mental physiology to those dealing with heredity and transmission.

The book’s structure is chronological covering a selection of texts in each chapter, with a balance between discussion of the more canonical of Collins’s texts such as The Woman in White, The Moonstone and Armadale and some of his lesser –known writings.

The author, Dr Laurence Talairach-Vielmas, is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail in France. This is her third book and she has authored several publications focusing on Victorian sensation fiction and Wilkie Collins in particular.

Wilkie Collins has mostly been studied in relation to gender and the Female Gothic. This study, however, examines the relationship between the Gothic and Medicine in Collins for the first time, making an important contribution to research in this area as well as developing the market of the rising medical humanities.

Helgard Krause, the newly appointed Head of the University of Wales Press commented:

“We are delighted that one of our publications has once again been recognised on an international level and shortlisted for this prestigious prize. Laurence Talairach-Vielmas is a very talented author and this fascinating study of Wilkie Collins fully deserves this accolade.”

The winner will be announced at the BSLS Conference in Newcastle in early April 2010.


 For more information, please visit: or email:

 Notes for Editors:

 The British Society for Literature and Science Book Prize was launched in 2007. The past winners are Ralph O’Connor for The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856 (University of Chicago Press, 2007) and George Levine for Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (Cambridge University Press, 2008).

 To find out more, please visit the BSLS website:


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