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Publication Date

2007-12-12

Availability

UM campus only

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2007-09-20

First Committee Member

Frank Palmeri - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Pamela Hammons - Committee Member

Third Committee Member

Zack Bowen - Committee Member

Fourth Committee Member

Gema Perez-Sanchez - Outside Committee Member

Abstract

Sensation fiction, which flourished in England from the 1850s to the 1880s, was viewed by Victorian establishment figures as a threat to prevailing social values. This dissertation focuses on the work of Charles Reade, who along with Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, was among the most well-known sensation novelists. While several novels by Collins and Braddon have been rediscovered by scholars since the 1980s, Reade's fiction remains neglected. With its explicit critique of the emerging regimes of power/knowledge in the fields of medicine, criminal justice, and sexual mores, Reade's work anticipates Michel Foucault's theories elaborated a century later. Although previous readings of Victorian fiction have drawn on the ideas of Foucault in an attempt to identify sensation novels as cultural productions complicit with a developing bourgeois hegemony, I argue that these novels represent a narrative genre that challenges and resists these disciplinary constraints. In addition, Reade's work provides a rare glimpse of alternative sexualities and gender identities in nineteenth-century fiction that can be read in light of feminist and gender theory. This dissertation recovers the fiction of Charles Reade as a body of work that anticipates recent trends in literary and cultural theory and that speaks to us today with an uncanny familiarity.

Keywords

Novelistic Genres; Madness In Literature; Transgendered Characters In Literature; Bigamy In Literature; Colonialism In Literature

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