I research 19th-century popular culture with added digital spice and am a proud independent scholar. After deciding not to complete a PhD begun at Cambridge, I developed an innovative research path for myself that fuses my academic and digital interests while enabling me to pursue other forms of work. I am dedicated to providing community for those who have chosen or been forced to continue their research outside of academic settings. My current research intersects book history and the digital humanities. Previous research areas covered 17th- and 18th-century criminal biographies as well as 19th-century fiction and its Hollywood adaptations. I have a persistent interest in looking at contemporary pop culture through scholarly lens.

Screenshot of my open notebook, Price One Penny, new series

Funded Project

“Completing and Updating Price One Penny for its Tenth Anniversary”
Created in 2010, the open access database Price One Penny presents information on serial literature published in penny weekly numbers between 1837 and 1860. This grant supports research and technical work for the website’s tenth anniversary, including additional archival research, adding newly-recovered works to the database, adding new features to the site, updating the code, and exporting the data to other resources and digital archives.

Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP)
Field Development Grant

Guest speaker

“The Nightmare Before Christmas;
or The Trials and Rewards of Building a Database”

Presentation at the Five College Book History Seminar
Massachusetts, USA
28 October 2020

“New Voices and Global Perspectives on Nineteenth Century Periodicals”
North-West Long Nineteenth-Century Seminar
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
7 July 2021

Screenshot of the database homepage on Price One Penny

Price One Penny:
A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837-1860

Bibliographic database of all the fiction published in penny weekly numbers in London until 1860. Created in 2010, peer-reviewed and aggregated by NINES in 2011.

With more than 1,000 works called penny bloods, it demonstrates that over half of this cheap literature was either adaptations or translations, or even reprinted, sometimes with new titles obscuring the source text. Penny bloods were thus a nexus between popular fiction in the United Kingdom, the United States, and France across time and class as well as between the stage and the page.

Screenshot of the The Mysteries of the Inquisition by V. de Féréal: A Price One Penny electronic edition

The Mysteries of the Inquisition
by V. de Féréal:
A Price One Penny electronic edition

Electronic edition of the French novel Les Mystères de l'Inquisition (1844-45) and two competing English translations presented side-by-side.

The paragraph-level comparison of each translation to the French text shows that the London Journal took great liberties with the narrative structure while publisher George Peirce's edition followed the French text much more faithfully, until it squeezed three quarters of the novel into the last third of its serialization. The reading public thus evidently favoured the London Journal's version. Poems inserted into this winning translation establish that it was written by none other than George W. M. Reynolds.

Article in the Journal of Stevenson Studies

Academic Journals

Léger-St-Jean, Marie and Katie McGettigan (2018). “Exploring Transatlantic Print Culture through Digital Databases.” Amerikastudien/American Studies 63.2, special issue “Digital Scholarship in American Studies,” edited by Alexander Dunst and Dennis Mischke: 159-181. Open Access

Léger-St-Jean, Marie (2012). “A Portrait of the Monster as Criminal, or the Criminal as Outcast: Opposing Ætiologies of Crime in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net (RaVoN), n° 62. Open Access

Léger-St-Jean, Marie (2012). “‘long for the penny number and weekly woodcut’: Stevenson on Reading and Writing Popular Fiction.” Journal of Stevenson Studies, n° 9, special issue “Robert Louis Stevenson, Essayist,” edited by Robert-Louis Abrahamson and Richard Dury: 207-232. Open Access

Book Chapter in Edward Lloyd and his World

Book Chapters

Léger-St-Jean, Marie (2019). “Thomas Peckett Prest and the Denvils: Mediating between Edward Lloyd and the Stage.” In Edward Lloyd and his World: Popular Fiction, Politics and the Press in Victorian Britain, edited by Rohan McWilliam and Sarah Lill, 114-131. Studies in Nineteenth Century Literature. London: Routledge. Closed Access

Léger-St-Jean, Marie (2016). “Serialization and Story-Telling Illustrations: R.L. Stevenson Window-Shopping for Penny Dreadfuls.” In Media and Print Culture Consumption in Nineteenth-Century Britain, edited by Paul Raphael Rooney and Anna Gasperini, 111-129. New Directions in Book History. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Closed Access

First instalment of Emma D. E. N. Southworth's serial 'Laura Etheridge' in the London Journal dated May 26, 1860

Photo by Justin Gilbert from his private collection.

Forthcoming Publications

Basdeo, Stephen and Marie Léger-St-Jean. “A Digital Mediagraphy of G. W. M. Reynolds.” G. W. M. Reynolds Society.

Blake, Hannah-Freya and Marie Léger-St-Jean. “Penny Pinching: Reassessing the Gothic Canon through Penny Blood Reprints.” In Penny Dreadfuls and the Gothic, edited by Nicole Dittmer and Sophie Raine.

Burz-Labrande, Manon and Marie Léger-St-Jean. “‘Lost, as it were, from amidst the assemblage of my literary productions’: Scissors-and-paste, Reynolds’s translations, and authorial agency.” In Reynolds Reimagined: New Directions in G. W. M. Reynolds Studies, edited by Jennifer Conary and Mary L. Shannon. Routledge.

Homestead, Melissa and Marie Léger-St-Jean. “‘Changed to suit the British market’: American Novelist E. D. E. N. Southworth in the London Journal and George Stiff’s Other Penny Weeklies.” Victorian Popular Fictions Journal 3.2, special issue “Unintended Authors: Piracy, Plagiarism and Property in Victorian Popular Culture,” edited by Monica Cohen.

Community Building

The first #SharpFriday, a weekly meeting of book historians and librarians, was held on 26 March 2020. SHARP had announced earlier in the month whose proposals had been accepted for its conference planned for June. We had just gotten excited on Twitter about seeing each other in Amsterdam when our countries were locking down one after the other. I launched the virtual meet-up so we could reconnect ahead of the conference, which was finally cancelled.

Quickly, the weekly meetups became essential to the mental health of many of us. A special session was planned as part of SHARP in Focus, the virtual event that came to replace the annual conference. As the pandemic drags along, the weekly meetings continue, bringing in new scholars into its ranks to build international friendships through much cultural exchange.

In the summer of 2020, I co-founded with Simon Rosenberg the Independent Scholars Community.

When I was a student, I founded a Popular Culture Reading Group, managed a Digital Humanities Association, and served in a variety of capacities as student representative both at the University of Cambridge (2010-2011) and the Université de Montréal (2005-2009).

Get in touch to collaborate

Got a project in mind? I would love to hear about it and see if we can collaborate.


Montréal, Québec
Eastern Standard Time