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Type: Theses
Title: “Petticoated police,” “intimate watching” and private agency(ies): reading the female detective of Fin-de-siècle British literature
Author: Seys, Genevieve Lauren
Issue Date: 2016
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: In April 1894, the Times Column of New Books and New Editions introduced to its readers "a Female Sherlock Holmes" (12). This was Loveday Brooke, in C. L. Pirkis‘s collection The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective. Loveday is one of many professional female detectives who traversed the pages of short stories, both serialised and in collections, during the British fin de siècle. The advertisement suggests that Loveday was portrayed as a female version of a masculine character type, typified by Holmes. In this thesis, I question this assumption as part of my literary ‘investigation’ of the fin-de-siècle female detective. Currently, there is only a small body of work on the nineteenth-century female detective and she remains "mysterious" and "little-known" as William Stephens Hayward describes his protagonist in Revelations of a Lady Detective (1864). This thesis employs ‘investigation’ as a structural and methodological framework to perform its own literary analysis and to make an original contribution to extant critical literature. Investigation provides an effective mode for the examination and articulation of how this figure is portrayed. The narrative trajectory of this thesis shares the key stages of the fictional female detective‘s investigation: the identification of evidence, consideration of its significance and meaning, and deduction based thereon. I read three collections of short stories, each featuring a professional female detective, published in Britain between 1893 and 1901, and treat the literary techniques in these texts as ‘clues’ to representation. Thus, double meanings, metaphors, and analogy, are the proof of a complex chain of “legal, social, moral, institutional and gendered practice” that shaped the representation of female detectives (Kestner 1). In Chapter One, I use vision and related concepts in the analysis of C. L. Pirkis‘s Loveday Brooke. The second stage of my literary investigation focuses upon disguise and I read George R. Sims‘s Dorcas Dene, Detective: Her Life and Adventures (1897). Dorcas‘s facility with disguise transcends mere detective work as it is also portrayed as a means of negotiating fin-de-siécle social mores. The final chapter considers the ratiocinations performed by Florence Cusack in the fiction of L. T. Meade (1899-1901). I consider the interaction between the female detective and contemporary discourses about women‘s mental faculties. Each chapter explores a different element of the female detective‘s investigation, revealing the ways in which Pirkis, Sims and Meade use elements of the detective plot to engage with, and subtly counter, contemporary gender discourses. Each detective transcends the proposed status of a “Female Sherlock Holmes,” as each is an important character in her own right. The detective plot essays female professionalism and independence, expanding the roles allocated to women in nineteenth-century British fiction.
Advisor: Treagus, Mandy
Tonkin, Maggie
Dissertation Note: Thesis (M.Phil.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2016.
Keywords: Victorian fiction
detective fiction
female detective
New Woman
British fiction
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
DOI: 10.25909/5b3c396fcc297
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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