Ailise Bulfin

Joint editor of the Professor Challenger stories

Dr Ailise Bulfin is a literary and cultural scholar whose research ranges from nineteenth-century to contemporary culture, with a particular focus on the dark side of the human imagination. Though Arthur Conan Doyle was not originally a major focus for her research, his work insistently pushed itself into both her PhD thesis and monograph at every turn owing to his knack for giving influential expression to a host of key fin-de-siècle ideas through his fiction. Doyle alludes to this quality himself in his confident pronouncement in an 1894 interview: ‘[T]he age of fiction is coming – the age when religious and social and political changes will all be effected by means of a novelist … To get an idea to penetrate to the masses of the people you must put fiction round it, like sugar round a pill.’ Eventually three out Dr Bulfin’s five monograph chapters ended up including substantial considerations of Doyle’s work, examining how the theme of invasion is present across his oeuvre, from the Holmes tales to the gothic and adventure short stories. Dr Bulfin has also written a book chapter comparing Holmes with Guy Boothby’s 1890s master criminal anti-hero character, Dr Nikola. She is delighted to be collaboratively editing the volume of Professor Challenger stories with Simon James for the Edinburgh project. The volume will include The Lost World (1912), The Poison Belt (1913), and the two short stories, ‘When The World Screamed’ (1928) and ‘The Disintegration Machine’ (1929). She is particularly keen on these tales as they link up with her interest in the growing imaginary of natural and environmental disaster in the later part of the nineteenth century into the early-twentieth century.

Dr Bulfin’s other research includes critical essays on topics such as child abuse, sexual violence, xenophobia, war, natural catastrophe and climate change. Her monograph, Gothic Invasions: Imperialism, War and Fin-de-Siècle Popular Fiction (2018), explores the interchange between popular literature and socio-political anxieties about war and invasion in the period before the First World War. She is co-organiser of the Invasion Network international research group and has worked with its members to produce a double special issue of Critical Survey considering the impact of the work of the major invasion fiction author and conspiracist William Le Queux on early-twentieth century fears of war, invasion, spying and sabotage (2020). She is currently Principal Investigator of a Wellcome Trust-funded project researching how child sexual abuse is represented in contemporary culture, which involves an interdisciplinary symposium and a pilot study exploring audience responses to fictional representations of CSA. She previously held an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin and lectured in English at Maynooth University and University College Dublin. Her work has been funded by the Irish Research Council, Royal Irish Academy, British Academy and the Wellcome Trust.