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Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

8. Text and Textuality

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In this module, we think about the extent to which Jekyll and Hyde reflects on its own conditions of textuality, focusing in particular on: (i) the idea of a 'case' as a written rather than oral text; (ii) the sheer number of written documents included in the text, e.g. letters, wills, newspapers; (iii) the importance of the newsagent that can be found near the entrance to (what Enfield and Utterson think is) Hyde's house; (iv) the extent to which reading cheap fiction – 'penny dreadfuls' and 'shilling shockers' – was thought to resemble eating fast food; (v) the extent to which the novel replays the duality of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in its status as a 'shilling shocker' that contains a more respectable moral tale; (vi) the extent to which the novel's exploration of the demandingness of professionalism reflects Stevenson's own anxieties as a professional writer; (vii) the importance of Mr Hyde's literacy; (viii) the nature of the "blasphemies" that Mr Hyde has scribbles on Dr Jekyll's books; (ix) the importance of the fact that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde have different voices but share the same handwriting; (x) the prioritisation of speech and writing when it comes to determining one's identity; (xi) the importance of writing in creating a permanent record of events (compared with the ephemerality of oral records); and (xii) the question of whether written documents are reliable or not – how can we be sure that Dr Jekyll's account of the case that ends of the novel was really written by Dr Jekyll?


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 - Text and Textuality [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

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