Neo-Victorian novelists sometimes use postgraduate students – trainee academics – who research nineteenth-century writers as protagonists. This article discusses four neo-Victorian novels, Lloyd Jones’s Mister Pip (2006), Justine Picardie’s Daphne (2008), A.N. Wilson’s A Jealous Ghost (2005) and Scarlett Thomas’s The End of Mr Y (2006), in which female postgraduate students take the centre stage. In Victorian literature, which mirrors the gender bias in the academic world and in society at large at that time, most scholars are male. The contemporary writers’ choice of female trainee academics is worth investigating as it speaks to the visibly changed gender make-up of contemporary academia. However, this utopian situation is complicated by the fact that the writers have chosen to frustrate the characters’ entry into the world of scholarship by having them leave the university environment altogether before the end of the novel. The fact that these females all choose to depart the university forms a contrast with notions of the university found in Victorian novels, in which leaving or not attending university might have detrimental effects on the characters.
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