‘colliers, negroes, demons, or whichever you fear most’: Exploring legacies of non-white race and non-cis gender in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, its adaptations and in fanworks

Nemo Martin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In this thesis I investigate the treatment of non-white race and non-cis gender within Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel Les Misérables, its adaptations and in fanworks. I begin by establishing the racial and gendered canon of Les Misérables, especially the misappropriation of the vocabulary of enslavement, the Goodness of white female beauty and the criminality assigned to Black and Indigenous peoples. I then turn to three adaptations made in the winter of 2018/9: Ladj Ly’s Les Misérables, the BBC production written by Andrew Davies and Fuji TV’s
レ・ミゼラブル 終わりなき旅路 [Les Misérables a Never Ending Journey] to explore how three writers from different cultural backgrounds make Les Misérables ‘relevant’ to their audiences. This includes the restitution of power towards Black humanity, the perpetuation of racial stereotypes hidden behind ‘colour blind’ casting, and fanfiction-like divergences used to create political meta-textual messages. In the third part I use interviews with fans of colour and data collected from the social media sites tumblr and ArchiveofOurOwn to track how Hugo’s language of race and racism remains embedded in Les Misérables fanworks even while its fans work to become a liberal, anti-racist fandom. I conclude with a critical re-reading of Hugo’s novel that ‘unsilences’ race and gender identity in Les Misérables to argue that the novel is full of queer, racial possibilities that are both plentiful and overdue.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Thompson, Hannah, Supervisor
  • Roberts, Adam, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • Les Mis
  • Victor Hugo
  • fanworks
  • fanfiction
  • fanart
  • racism
  • Transgender
  • fan studies
  • race studies
  • nineteenth century french literature
  • Les Misérables
  • colourism
  • colour blind casting
  • Ladj Ly
  • Andrew Davies
  • Hideya Hamada
  • adaptation studies
  • Queer theory
  • Jean Valjean
  • Boublil and Schönberg
  • Javert
  • Les Miserables
  • Enjolras
  • Cosette
  • Fantine
  • Grantaire
  • Fandom
  • tumblr
  • ArchiveOfOurOwn
  • white supremacy
  • racial stereotype
  • white studies
  • Colonialism
  • owarinaki tabiji
  • レ・ミゼラブル 終わりなき旅路
  • BBC
  • transgender people of colour

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