Anne Schwan

“You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?”

“For me,” said Sherlock Holmes, “there still remains the cocaine-bottle.” And he stretched his long white hand up for it.

The Sign of Four (1890)
Book Editor of A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four

I completed my PhD at the University of London (Birkbeck), before taking up a permanent post at Edinburgh Napier University in 2007. I am now a Professor in English, teaching across the undergraduate English programme and on our MA in Digital and Public Humanities. My research to date has focused on representations of gender, crime and imprisonment from the nineteenth century to the present, including a monograph, Convict Voices: Women, Class, and Writing about Prison in Nineteenth-Century England (University of New Hampshire Press, 2014). By analysing a wide range of sources, from canonical Victorian novels by George Eliot and Wilkie Collins, to execution broadsides and life writing, the book identified an emerging, often contested feminist consciousness, through the prism of penal debates. I am also the coauthor, with Stephen Shapiro, of How to Read Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (Pluto, 2011). Other publications include articles on the Victorian popular fiction writer Frederick William Robinson, pioneering social reformer Mary Carpenter and the contemporary Netflix series Orange is the New Black. More recently, I have conducted research and become involved in public engagement activities focused on creativity in First World War internment camps. Alongside my research, I am committed to engaging with the world beyond academia and set up an award-winning partnership with the Scottish Prison Service and its learning provider Fife College to involve literature students in innovative peer-learning models in prisons.

For the Edinburgh Edition of the Works of Arthur Conan Doyle, I am editing the volume on the first two Sherlock Holmes novellas, A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. These texts are intriguing as they show an author who is experimenting with the formula of crime fiction and trying to find a voice. Holmes is here shown as a morally ambivalent character, pushing against the boundaries of Victorian mores, as opposed to the more sanitized version associated with the later Holmes stories published in the Strand Magazine. Holmes’s dubious status as a drug-taking loner who, unlike narrator Dr Watson, eschews heteronormative expectations, is encapsulated in the closing lines of The Sign of Four:

“You have done all the work in this business. I get a wife out of it, Jones gets the credit, pray what remains for you?”

“For me,” said Sherlock Holmes, “there still remains the cocaine-bottle.” And he stretched his long white hand up for it.