December 02, 2016

Fiction (Friday group)

Writing about web page

Dear All,

Please could you read the following:

Dan - Trodd

Ella - Shpayer-Makiv

Anna S - Rodensky

Robin - Pykett

Anna B - Priestman

Kieran - Morrison & Roberts

Helen - Mangham

Victoria - Wynne

Lewis - Worthington

Alice - Godfrey

Ellie - Cook

Rachel - Miller & Oakley

James - Ascari

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  1. Andrew Mangham, Violent Women and Sensation Fiction
    Mangham looks at the link between fictional accounts of female criminals and non-fiction, focusing on the exchanges that were made between these two narratives. He contends that as the two types of writing were published together in periodicals, there was a great exchange of information between the two. The fiction writers would try to create continuity between articles in the periodicals by drawing on features from articles written by scientists, lawyers and journalists. Similarly, non-fiction writers of criminal reports and medical texts would use literary devices to elaborate on their ideas.
    Mangham also concentrates on notions of women as insanely violent. He indicates that the femme fatale was a creation of mid-Victorian culture, contrary to popular belief of its position at the fin-de-siècle. The destructive woman figure was poignant at mid-century, speaking to ideologies of the era.
    He concludes by stating that whilst there was not necessarily an increase in crimes committed by women, allegedly violent women were given more attention in the period’s media. Stories of female violence were converted into narratives to sanction/strengthen a male-driven culture, with texts containing coded messages to regulate the behaviours of each gender. He also argues that this created a paradox: By writing on conservative notions in such accounts, writers were also giving indications of how these ideologies had failed.

    04 Dec 2016, 13:59

  2. Elie Martin

    Michael Cook, Narratives of Enclosure in Detective Fiction: the Locked Room

    The locked room has long fascinated readers of detective fiction with its images of entrapment. Narratives of Enclosure is the first full length critical study of the Locked Room Mystery, tracing its origins in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, the first detective story, up to the modern era. Looking beyond the facade of the impossible crime to examine stories by Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, John Dickson Carr and Paul Auster, Cook uses critical and thematic contexts to show how the idea of enclosure has informed detective fiction at every stage in its history and is therefore a continuous surviving theme.

    The locked-room mystery is a subgenre of detective fiction in which a crime—almost always murder—is committed under circumstances under which it was seemingly impossible for the perpetrator to commit the crime and/or evade detection in the course of getting in and out of the crime scene. Where there doesn’t need to be an actual ‘locked room’, it is a metaphorical plot device, and can be applied to different author’s detective fiction stories.

    The locked room is both a physical and cerebral concept with its own discrete linguistic notions of enclosure which corresponds to the embracement of the narrative itself in which the investigation of a crime is framed within the story of the crime and its solution. Cook highlights this this through a textual analysis of the way in which it was written into fiction. Throughout all the novels that have been written along similar lines, he shows that the fundamental concept of entrapment remains the same, and the rest have been adapted to suit the authors purpose.

    For an interesting contemporary perspective on literary devices deployed in detective fiction, i would STRONGLY recommend reading this piece by the Guardian.

    05 Dec 2016, 11:26

  3. The Rise of the Detective in Early Nineteenth-Century Popular Fiction
    Heather Worthington

    Worthington offers an investigation into representations of crime and detection in the popular press from 1820 to 1850. She discusses the impact and the importance of the broadsheet in creating a market for crime narratives. It is mentioned that these narratives were ultimately produced for profit, leading to the sensationalised and grizzly nature of the stories, although they also served as a warning to others of the dangers of crime and also a way to police and discipline its readers. The textualisation of crime and criminality created the crime fiction genre, as often the details and accounts of crimes on broadsheets were written after the event, and used equal amounts of creativity as well as fact. The fact that these broadsheets were essentially entertainment is stressed – the morbid and voyeuristic tendencies of the masses is taken advantage of in order to sell copies, appealing to the lowest social common denominator.

    Worthington argues that the figure of the detective and the emergence of the ‘case structure’ to the literature was central to the development of the narrative of crime fiction. There was a clear distinction between the public and private spheres, and the first detectives to feature in crime literature were police detective, not private. This arose from the increasing urbanisation and accounts of more complex crime, therefore the stories associated with it became more complex, reflecting the increasingly complex nature of crime in society.

    Blackwood’s magazine is also discussed. Worthington writes that Blackwood’s tales brought together the commodified crime of the broadsides with the reformist interest in the criminal individual and his or her motives. The same level of sensationalism was featured, but it was tailored to the more socially or financially elevated readers to whom the magazine was aimed. The sensationalism was therefore seen through the eyes of the narrator, reflecting a more personal experience and making it more palatable to the reader. Blackwood’s was also not illustrated so the talents of the writer were relied upon to drive sales. By the mid nineteenth century a criminographical floodgate had been opened, and the depictions of detectives varied depending on the market and the target audience. The lines between fact and fiction were often blurred in these stories, sometimes being based on real murders, and the police began to take a more marginal role – the middle class were resistant to the police entering the private sphere.

    06 Dec 2016, 20:35

  4. Morrison and Roberts’ ‘Thomas De Quincey’. I thought it would be good to give some background on Thomas De Quincey first off. He was an English essayist, best known for his work, “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” (1821). The family moved throughout England and Quincey spend most of his youth as an ill child. Quincey was destined to go to Oxford, with his ambition of reaching William Wordsworth. Yet, this was not to be and he subsequently became a wayfarer. Spending time as both a journalist and essayist, a number of medical issues made him turn towards opium.

    The book itself is a collection of various essays, using multiple frameworks from religion to geography to portray the narrative of Thomas De Quincey. The first chapter seeks to contextualise Quincey’s works within today’s society and the impact they have had. It explores some of QUincey’s more prominent works, such as the Avenger (1838). We see the author’s delve into Quincey’s obsession with both Kant and murder, and how he neatly ties them together in a number of his essays.

    The following chapter explores the biblical orientalism of Quincey, mainly focusing on his opium addiction. This is through the lens of Said’s argument for orientalism’s imperialist progression throughout the nineteenth century. What I found quite interesting was Quincey’s writings were an early, albeit limited form of self-psychoanalysis. The connection between religion and the mind has been a fascination across the ages, mixed in with opium and it provides a fascinating read. The next section links in quite well, titled “Mix(ing) a Little with Alien Natures”. Again, it looks at the nightmares of Quincey with a characteristically colonial approach.

    Quincey’s political leanings have been a matter of debate. This next chapter discusses the impact of his conservative voice on both his addiction and the world around him. In this, we see an exploration into Quincey’s writings on class unity. Opium, again, plays a prominent role in Quincey’s ideas of unifying the social strata. Quincey is relatively radical for his period, notably his openness about his addiction. It is constantly pushing and pulling with his conservatism in “Confessions”, something displayed aptly in ‘Earthquake and Eclipse’.

    ‘De Quincey and Men (Of Letters) explores masculinity’s role in his literature, turning away from Quincey’s known obsession with women. In this, Whale explores how this obsession impacted on many of his writings, particularly his relationship with William Wordsworth. In a similar vein, the proceeding section inquires into Quincey’s ideas about women, with the Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine as a framework.

    ‘De Quincey and the Secret Life of Books’ is a rather unusual addition, taking a narrative style to explore the role they played throughout his life. We gauge a sense of the amount Quincey read, as well as the topics that he was interested in like Exploratory volumes and bibles. Finally, a suitable ending for the book is the role of geography in Quincey’s opium addiction. It is neatly placed into a British context, tieing up all of the previous chapters nicely with Orientalism and influential books.

    08 Dec 2016, 15:08

  5. Dan Ewers

    Anthea Trodd, Domestic Crime in the Victorian Novel, (Basingstoke, 1989)

    Throughout her book, Trodd explores domestic crime in relation to certain characters or actors within the novel, including such entities as the servant, the policeman, the lady, and, in many cases, the home itself. Todd explores the ‘private’ world of the domestic sphere through the lens of Victorian fiction, exposing how tensions and conflicts experienced within wider Victorian society found themselves expressed within the novels of the time. Through her examination of fiction in the Victorian period, Trodd highlights the Asmodean nature of sensationalist fiction (Asmodeus is a demon known for tearing the roof from houses and looking inside) in the sense that it often encroaches upon the privacy of the home in order to uncover some sort of lurking criminality beneath the façade of peaceful, domestic life.

    A prime example of such tensions can be seen within the tensions between the policeman and the Lady of the house, in which wider societal concerns about the police force’s increasing powers to interfere within the private, domestic, world of the middle class home are reflected within fictional accounts of the period. The prying eyes of the detective and the private affairs of homeowners appear at loggerheads in many fictional writing in the period (as can be seen within Salem Chapel by Margaret Oliphant, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, and Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon).

    Another key tension within the fiction and broader society of the period is that of “Household Spies”: servants who become privy to every affair of their employer through their situation within the domestic sphere. Victorian fiction gave new prominence to images of the servant character, often with criminality as a central theme, due to tensions between the need for domestic service and the desire to retain privacy within the home. The establishment of separate servants’ quarters and the use of bells to summon servants when required is indicative of a culture that wished to keep the employer and employee distinctly separate within the Victorian home, allowing interaction between the two only when strictly necessary.

    Throughout her book, Trodd highlights a number of debates surrounding notions of femininity and criminality, examining the representation of the “angel” of the hearth and the often highly gendered conceptualisation of certain crimes and actions. Trodd debates whether criminality within sensationalist fiction is a male or female trait (arguing that it is primarily a female trait in relation to stories concerning the private, domestic life) and the representation of numerous female roles such as the nurse, the maid, and the Lady within these stories. Secrecy and what is hidden from / revealed through the narrator appears as a central function in this, as it allows authors to expose secrets or criminal guilt without necessarily making the central character aware of such actions, as can be seen for example in Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and her utilisation of possibly one of the most famous “Nurse” narrators: Nelly Dean. What Nelly hears or does not hear when she is completing her duties within Wuthering Heights has a drastic effect both upon the narration and events of the story, and Nelly’s role within the domestic matters of the other occupants puts her in a position to speak about their activities.

    08 Dec 2016, 19:58

  6. Martin Priestman The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction
    Since the 1960s the barriers between ‘high’ and ‘low’ literature have been progressively dismantled (1)
    Priestman stresses the importance of the study of crime fiction as the indicators of a great many readers’ needs and anxieties (1)
    Up to the early 1980s, study of the form was still focused mainly on ‘detective’ or ‘mystery’ fiction, and nodded back to the half-serious ‘rules’ which had been drawn up for the genre in the inter-war period and stressed the figure of the detective and the author’s fair handling of clues. (1)
    As the crime genre itself developed – often in challenge to its own earlier assumptions, as with the women and black detectives of the 1980s and 1990s – it became increasingly relevant to consider the gender, race and class implications of its various metamorphoses (2)
    the traditional story of the growth of ‘detective fiction’ which held sole sway until recently, claims that the detective story was invented in 1841 by Edgar Allan Poe, who acknowledged some debt to the structure as well as content of William Godwin’s earlier novel Caleb Williams (1794). In the 1860s the form pioneered in Poe’s short stories at last found its way into the novels of Emile Gaboriau in France and Wilkie Collins in England: Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) is normally celebrated as the first great detective novel (2)
    Priestman proposes that the danger with the traditional story is that, in looking chiefly for the first stirrings of something recognisably like Doyle, Christie or Chandler, it imposes a model of quasi-evolutionary striving on a past which was often interested in other things entirely, and tends to overlook the pre-existing genres and ways of writing about crime from which the present canon historically emerged (3)
    Collins’s The Moonstone has been discussed in luxuriant depth by critics seeking the origins of the British detective-hero or even a kind of psychological template for all other detective novels. What is not always sufficiently recognised by such accounts is The Moonstone’s place in a more slowly evolving history of the Victorian novelistic treatment of crime (3)
    Lyn Pykett explores the ‘Newgate novels’ of the 1830s–1840s, whose empathy with the lusty criminality of the previous century soon made them politically suspect, to the ‘Sensation novels’ of the 1860s, which shocked readers just as much by placing more small-scale, intimate crimes at the heart of modern middle- and upper-class homes (3-4)
    By a relatively small re-emphasis, The Moonstone shifts the focus from the crime itself – which turns out barely to be one – to its investigation. (4)
    Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)= the purest of ‘Sensation novels’ (4)
    With Doyle’s creation of the Sherlock Holmes series, detective fiction became for the first time an indubitably popular and repeatable genre format. It now knows what it is and what it is trying to do, as does its public; and while there is a simultaneous burgeoning of many other popular crime-related formulae, it becomes a respectably full-time job to analyse the numerous variants of this one (4)

    08 Dec 2016, 22:28

  7. James Baxter-Derrington

    Ascari – A counter-history of crime fiction: Supernatural, gothic, sensational

    Ascari’s book is explained pretty entirely in its title, an attempt to redress some of the myths that occur whenever a topic with such a glut of content and attention exists for so long. This counter-history studies all areas pertaining to the genre as well as the texts itself. It challenges the construction and eventual deconstruction of the canon of crime fiction, calling into question the books we consider classics versus the ones forgotten to the annals of history, positing that those we often write off contain a wealth of knowledge to be ascertained about the cultures that read them. The audiences of these stories are also addressed, especially the commodification of their female audiences and characters, whilst also questioning which novels we decided to translate across the globe and the languages into which they were translated. The counter-history also seeks to use the books of various canons to interpret scientific beliefs and understandings of the contemporary audience, from the Enlightenment, through mesmerism and spiritualism, to eventual modernism. The counter-history is ultimately a very full one, not content simply to look at the texts, but ambitious enough to use these pieces as a lens to the times they were written, and further still, reading into the audiences who purchased them, and even which languages they were available to.

    09 Dec 2016, 01:23

  8. Lisa Rodensky, The Crime in Mind: Criminal Responsibility and the Victorian Novel

    Rodensky argues that the novel’s power to convey the interior life of its characters both challenges the law’s definitions of criminal responsibility and reaffirms them. By connecting famous novelists with prominent jurists and legal historians of the era, she offers a new approach to thinking about the Victorian period.

    She describes how nineteenth century legal documents tell complex stories about cultural attitudes toward criminal responsibility – this is something which has been previously studied and documented. ANother kind of discourse, however, similarly assumed much cultural power during the nineteenth century. She points to the words of Irish politician and historian Justin M’Carthy who claimed, ‘the novelist is now our most influential writer.. His power over the community he addresses is far beyond that of any other author’.. The novelist thus occupied a complicated position in social affairs since, ‘his or her authority was unofficial yet undeniable’(4).

    Though novel cannot obtain legal authority, Rodensky argues the novel’s influence over matter of justice was still significant. For example, Dickens’ representations of legal history were turned into a small volume named, Charles Dickens as a Legal Historian, in 1928. On this first page of this volume, it is stated that the accuracy of detail in Dickens’ treatment of law, ‘entitles us to reckon one of the greatest of our English novelists as a member of the select band of our legal historians’ (5).

    Rodensky is particularly interested in the novels’ power to intensively explore the inner life of Victorian society. She asks, what might the consequences of such representations be for social and cultural attitudes toward the basic elements of crime and towards criminal responsibility more generally? (7). As novels both challenge and reaffirm the law’s definitions of criminal liability, how will this affect the reader’s feelings towards crime? Third person narratives, she claims, play a major role in this process as they give access to an inner self in ways that alter our experiences of the criminal act; the nineteenth century, she argues, was when the third person narrative rose to power.

    10 Jan 2017, 13:46

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