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Wednesday, 6 April 2022, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Museum of London

Villains in the Novel: from Dickens, Hardy and Wilkie Collins to Hilary Mantel

Professor John Mullan

Are villains cardboard characters? If so, why do we enjoy them so much? 

Drawing examples from film and TV drama, as well as from popular fiction, this lecture will try to explain the satisfaction of villainy for the audience. Using the novels of Wilkie Collins and Thomas Hardy, it will look at the development of the villain in nineteenth-century fiction; and at examples of contemporary literary novelists, like Hilary Mantel, who are willing to unleash the energies of villainy.


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John is Visiting Gresham Professor of English Literature.

He is the Lord Northcliffe Chair of Modern English Literature at University College London. He is a specialist in eighteenth-century literature and is at present writing the volume of the Oxford English Literary History that will cover the period from 1709 to 1784.

John is a regular TV and radio broadcaster and a literary journalist; he writes on contemporary fiction for the Guardian and was a judge for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

Professor Mullan was appointed Visiting Gresham Professor of English Literature for 2020/21.

In his first lecture series for Gresham College, Visiting Professor John Mullan will combine his scholarly expertise in the history of the English novel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with his interest in contemporary fiction. 

Professor Mullan's lecture series is as follows:

2021/22 The Powers of the Novel cont.

2020/21 The Powers of the Novel

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