Taking Back the Pen: Sensation, Sanity, and Subversion in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret
Thesis (Open Access)
Bachelor of Arts in English
English Language and Literature
Despite the Victorian society’s dismissal of sensation novels as low-brow literature and scholars’ lack of attention to the genre in terms of its contributions to the hidden feminist movement in the Victorian era, novels like Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret take the misogynistic language and tropes of the era, reshape them with their own ideals, and thus subvert the patriarchal models within literature and the society. This research expands from the groundwork on women’s literature in the Victorian era laid by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, as well as Elaine Showalter, to the less-explored genre of Victorian sensation fiction. Showalter, Gilbert, and Gubar identified binaries that appeared prevalent throughout women’s writing of the era. Specifically, this work will look at the Angel/Monster binary that Gilbert and Gubar identified, as well as the Sane/Insane binary that Showalter suggests. I will first explore the binaries and their appearances in the more traditional literature. I then use Braddon’s novel as a case study to explore how she adapted the binaries differently than her peers. Braddon’s novel displays the hidden rebellion that Gilbert and Gubar identify as a commonality among 19th century women authors, but Lady Audley’s Secret proves to be more revolutionary than its contemporaries in its treatment of the binaries as it not only argues against them, but also provides new and innovative models for women.
Hatley, Kelsey, "Taking Back the Pen: Sensation, Sanity, and Subversion in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret" (2013). Senior Theses. 9.