Surface Tensions: Steampunk, Subculture, and the Ideology of Style



Ferguson C (2011) Surface Tensions: Steampunk, Subculture, and the Ideology of Style. Neo-Victorian Studies, 4 (2), pp. 66-90.

Drawing on a variety of steampunk visual, textual, and performance sources, this article traces the contentious and highly charged debate about the ideology and aesthetics of period style that circulates within this eclectic neo-Victorian subculture. Far from simply rejecting the historical nineteenth century in favour of a fantastical version, steampunk practice is animated by the problem of if, and how, the Victorian period’s social, economic, and political legacies should be signified. This discussion is nowhere more heated in the subculture’s internal micro-media than in discussions of the regalia and style of empire. In drawing attention to this compelling steampunk discourse on the ethics of representation, my paper calls for a new and more situated approach to competing steampunk practices and political identifications, one that might extend and replace the holistic assessments of the subculture that have predominated so far.

cosplay; Empire; historical referentiality; ideology; post-subcultures; steampunk; subculture; Victorian period

Neo-Victorian Studies: Volume 4, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2011
PublisherSwansea University
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Professor Christine Ferguson

Professor Christine Ferguson

Professor in English, English Studies