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Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

9. National Identity

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In this module, we think about the presentation of national identity in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, focusing in particular on: (i) the racial politics in the language used to describe Mr Hyde compared to Dr Jekyll – especially in the description of Mr Hyde as "ape-like"; (ii) the importance of the four lines of verse that serves as the epigraph of the poem, particularly the shift from Scotland ("the north countrie") to England ("a busy quarter of London") when the novel proper begins; (iii) the extent to which Edinburgh would have been a more natural setting for this novel: Stevenson as a Scottish writer, the fame of the medical school in Edinburgh, etc.; (iv) the idea of gothic literature as a hybrid genre that intermingles English and Celtic literature traditions; (v) the importance of Celtic writers in the gothic tradition: James Hogg (1770-1835), Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-73), Bram Stoker (1847-1912), Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), Arthur Machen (1863-1947); (vi) the gothic novel as a means of exploring the permeability of national borders; (vii) the 'Celtic' names of many of the characters in the novels – e.g. Jekyll (Scottish), Lanyon (Cornish), Carew (Cornish/Welsh), Utterson (Scandinavian) – compared with the Englishness of Edward Hyde; ad (viii) the importance of the Irish Question in late 19th-century politics, and the increasingly racialised discourse when discussing the Scottish, Irish and Welsh; (ix) the extent to which Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a novel about the anxieties surrounding the loss of racial purity, the loss of 'pure Englishness'.


In this course, Dr Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth) explores Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In the first module, we think about the genre of the novel, before turning in the second novel to consider the implications of its title – not 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', but 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'. In the third module, we provide a close reading of the opening paragraph of the novel, thinking in particular about the character of Mr Utterson and the extent to which the first paragraph introduces the reader (if obliquely) to some of the key themes in the novel. After that, we think about the theme of degeneration, before turning in the fifth, sixth and seventh modules to some Freudian themes in the novel: the unconscious, the uncanny and sex and sexuality. In the eighth module, we think about the extent to which the novel reflects on its own conditions of textuality, before turning in the ninth and final module to think about how the novel explores anxieties about national identity.

Note: Page numbers in these lectures refers to the Penguin Classics edition of the novel (‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Other Tales of Terror’, ed. Robert Mighall). Students using a different version of the novel may encounter slight differences in page numbering.


Dr Christopher Pittard joined the University of Portsmouth in 2009, having held previous teaching positions at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter. His main research focus is on the popular culture of the nineteenth century, especially the emergence of popular genres in the Victorian fin de siecle and detective fiction in particular. His monograph, Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction, considers how such fictions (and the periodicals in which they appeared) engaged with ideas of material and social purity, ranging from Sherlock Holmes cleaning the face of criminality in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” to the moral policing carried out by the Social Purity movements and late Victorian antivivisection campaigns. His publications in this area include discussions of Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Morrison, Fergus Hume, and of the Strand Magazine more widely.

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APA style

Pittard, C. (2021, March 08). Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - National Identity [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Pittard, C. "Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – National Identity." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 08 Mar 2021,