The Journey: Vanessa Ives and Edgework as Self-Work

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This paper analyzes the witch Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) in ensemble horror series Penny Dreadful (2014–16). Witches have been television material since Bewitched (1964–72), usually in comedy or light drama, and often for teen audiences. Penny Dreadful, however, is a horror-gothic show for adults, and Vanessa a woman plagued by her powers. She is traumatized by earlier sexual escapades and family losses, and now fights evil in late-Victorian London as part of a group led by Sir Malcolm. In this paper, I read Vanessa’s journey to know herself as a form of edgework, which in sociology is a term for when we in our leisure time perform extreme, exciting and dangerous activities that take us beyond the limits of safety. In sport sociology, ‘edgework’ is when participants ‘work’ the edge of danger (Laurendeau, 2008). Whether in sport or fiction, ‘edgework’ can both challenge social rules and facilitate self-growth. This analysis therefore takes an interdisciplinary approach to screen horror as phantasmagorical play (Sutton-Smith, 1997) that enables emotional edgework.
Article number6
JournalRefractory a Journal of Entertainment Media
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Article about the witch Vanessa Ives in television ensemble horror series Penny Dreadful (2014-16). The article uses the theory of "edgework" from sports sociology and asks how this is used as self-work for the protagonist.

Themed Issue: Identity and the Fantastic in Penny Dreadful
Edited by Amanda Howell, Stephanie Green, Rikke Schubart & Anita Nell Bech Albertsen

    Research areas

  • Penny Dreadful, Edgework, Vanessa Ives, The fantastic, Horror, Fantastic television, Television drama