Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Cherchez les femmes : the lives and literary contribution of the first women to write crime fiction
Author: Sussex, Lucy Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 2747 2649
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2005
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
"Cherchez la Femme" is a phrase emblematic of crime fiction. In this study it is applied to detective/mystery writing from the late 1700s through the mid-nineteenth century to the 1870s: the object being to investigate the women writers whose work helped shape and define the literary genre. Like a mystery, the intent is to "chercher les femmes", to discover "whodunnit". The extent of the female presence and influence in crime writing during the crucial years of its formation and codification has never been fully examined before. The established genre histories focus almost exclusively on work by male writers, a paternity of crime writing. Where women appear in studies of the early crime tradition, it is as fictional detectives, rather than the female authors. This study demonstrates that women writers were an active and innovative presence in crime writing even before its formal generic beginnings. They preceded such significant crime "mileposts" as Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", with the female influence on crime traceable back to the Gothic and its "mysteries". "Cherchez Les Femmes" is concerned with origins, founding mothers of genre. The writers studied are innovators, or the "firsts" of their respective national crime literatures, or who wrote more than one significant work of crime. The focus is mainly on Anglophone writers, from the UK, America, and the British colonies. Thus from Britain, the discussion includes Ann Radcliffe, Frances Trollope, Catherine Crowe, Elizabeth Gaskell, Caroline Clive, Mary Braddon and Ellen (Mrs Henry) Wood. American writers examined are Harriet Prescott Spofford, Louisa May Alcott and Metta Victor. Several chapters are devoted to the Australian authors Ellen Davitt and Mary Fortune. The study evaluates their work in the context of the emerging crime genre, with also a discussion of their lives, given that with all to some degree a personal transgression against Victorian notions of correct female behaviour was involved.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available