The Past made Present: 21st Century Steampunk Cinema and Neo-Victorianism

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    Steampunk’s presence has become increasingly prolific within numerous art forms over the last ten years, developing from an underground movement into an instantly 27 recognisable brand with enormous commercial potential. Whilst this development has been the subject of many academic studies - particularly those that assess its impact in the fields of literature, fashion and engineering – it has been noticeably absent from discussions of the medium that has been hugely influential in fuelling much of its newfound mass-awareness: cinema. The study discussed here will be an attempt to remedy this issue and outline how this do-it-yourself, reactionary sub-culture has been appropriated and remodelled into a commodified aesthetic that has pervaded numerous blockbuster productions over the past decade. In classifying the substantial impact that Steampunk has had within contemporary Hollywood productions, this paper will challenge conventions of genre identification and encourage a view of Steampunk as an exemplar of the thoroughly complex manner through which previously existing generic codes and conventions are recycled into new forms. As a movement that has arisen from a digitally saturated society, the research presented focuses on the pleasures that Steampunk’s romanticising of a previous Industrial age affords. Finally, using hybridity as a key theme, and by drawing together theories of historical appropriation and the nature of adaptive repetition, Steampunk will be used as a means to reflect on how cinema, as a product of 19th century technological development itself, has become synonymous with debates that consider how we order our cultural and personal memories through mechanical practices.
    Robbie McAllister is a PhD student at Aberystwyth University. Following a Masters that focused on the development of the gothic tradition, he has turned to a movement that has an equally rich lineage. His doctoral research on the relationship between Steampunk and contemporary cinema aims to reflect on the evolution of the Steampunk movement, and how its repeated enactment in mainstream cinema offers new ways for audiences to engage with imaginary pasts and possible futures.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 24 Jul 2013
    EventNeo-Victorian Cultures: Victorians Today - John Moores University, Liverpool, United Kingdom
    Duration: 24 Jul 201326 Jul 2013

    Academic conference

    Academic conferenceNeo-Victorian Cultures: Victorians Today
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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