Victorian Literature Crime and Punishment
by
Anne Schwan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199799558-0087

Introduction

The study of Victorian crime and punishment is a rich area of research that has attracted the interest not only of literary scholars but also of social historians, legal historians, and criminologists. Related scholarship therefore often situates itself at the intersection of traditional disciplinary boundaries, facilitating interdisciplinary conversation. Crime and punishment was a pressing issue for the Victorians and provoked a wealth of responses from contemporaneous commentators in literature, culture, and science. As a new phase of industrialization brought immense wealth for some and abject poverty for others, Victorian urban centers in particular were afflicted by crime. Without an effective system of social welfare in place, social inequality and deprivation drove women, men, and children into petty crime and more serious offenses, resulting in severe punishment ranging from incarceration via penal transportation to hanging. Public executions, not abolished until 1868, attracted huge crowds of spectators, including authors such as Charles Dickens and William Thackeray, who wrote about these experiences. A forerunner of the popular press, street literature conveyed and illustrated these events for a broad audience. Execution broadsides of famous cases, printing the alleged last lamentations of convicts on the scaffold in verse, are estimated to have sold by the million. As the legal system was undergoing reform (comprising changes in legal evidence procedure, divorce law, women’s property rights, and punishment for sexual offenses, for example), sensational trials caused furor and stimulated commentary in literature and the media. Crime and punishment was discussed in a range of literary and popular genres, poetry, and reformist writing. The “Newgate School” of fiction was accused of glamorizing crime, and the popular penny dreadfuls were feared to corrupt public morals. Sensational fiction in the 1860s, which often drew on real-life criminal cases and newspaper reports, depicted the supposedly respectable middle-class family home as a center of transgression. Similarly, detective fiction typically focused on crime in the world of the middle classes. For the student new to the subject of crime and punishment, this area’s interdisciplinary nature can pose an initial challenge.

General Overviews

There is no shortage of useful overviews of crime and punishment in the Victorian period, although it is helpful to distinguish between works that consider the practice of crime and punishment from a historical point of view (Historical Context) and those that deal with its representation in Literature and Culture, although there is some overlap between these somewhat artificial distinctions. Popular Histories contains well-researched, recent titles written for a broader audience that also provide excellent introductions to the general socio-historical context of the period in a particularly accessible style.

Historical Context

Emsley 2009 is a readable textbook-style introduction with helpful suggestions for further reading. Forsythe 1987 concentrates on prison reform but is equally accessible. McConville 1981 is more daunting due to its size and is more likely to be relevant as a reference guide for readers in search of specific details about the administration of punishment. Although Wiener 1990 is not a textbook, its wide range of evidentiary basis makes it an excellent introduction for readers from different disciplines and levels. Rowbotham and Stevenson 2005 offers insight into a variety of themes with an overall focus on the construction of social panics around specific crimes and types of offenders in the media. Foucault 1977 is a historical-theoretical text more suitable for advanced undergraduates and scholars. There are few critical texts about crime and punishment in the Victorian period published after Foucault that do not refer to his work, even if its premises are often challenged, so he remains a force to be reckoned with by researchers active in this area.

  • Emsley, Clive. Crime and Society in England, 1750–1900. 4th ed. Themes in British Social History. Harlow, UK: Longman, 2009.

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    Frequently updated study that remains an essential reference book in the social history of crime. Discusses criminal statistics and their critical evaluation, concepts of gender, class, and the role of different agents in the criminal justice system. A readable book with suggestions for further reading and future directions in research.

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    • Forsythe, William James. The Reform of Prisoners, 1830–1900. London: Croom Helm, 1987.

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      Overview of 19th-century prison reform that attempts to reclaim reformist ideals as an ethical intervention. Situates itself as a complement and challenge to previous revisionist studies (such as Foucault 1977) that interpreted reformism as an effect and purpose of capitalist society.

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      • Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Allen Lane, 1977.

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        Although oft-challenged in its key assumptions, this influential theoretical text (originally published as Surveiller et Punir: La Naissance de la prison, 1975) remains essential reading for anybody wishing to understand recent criticism on Victorian writing about crime and punishment, which often uses Foucault as a central reference point.

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        • McConville, Seán. A History of English Prison Administration. Vol. 1, 1750–1877. London: Routledge, 1981.

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          Thorough overview of the administration of punishment and its changes during the Victorian period, including statistics. Main focus is on official sources, with occasional references to literary authors such as Dickens. Useful reference guide for anyone trying to understand the basics of how prisons operated in the 19th century.

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          • Rowbotham, Judith, and Kim Stevenson, eds. Criminal Conversations: Victorian Crimes, Social Panic, and Moral Outrage. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005.

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            Collection covering a wealth of topics, including social panics around criminal children, Irish migrants, homosexuality, poisoning, and domestic violence. Most contributors come from the disciplines of law or history, but chapters discuss media representations aside from empirical sources.

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            • Wiener, Martin J. Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law, and Policy in England, 1830–1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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              Comprehensive survey of changing conceptualizations of crime and punishment in the Victorian and Edwardian era. Positions itself as part of a new “cultural history” that includes literary sources and aims to discuss criminal policy in a broader social context of moral discourse. Valuable to readers from different disciplines and levels of study.

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              Popular Histories

              Summerscale 2008 uses the real-life murder case of three-year-old Saville Kent as a starting point to write an accessible social history of crime and policing. Flanders 2011 offers a panoramic overview of crime and punishment in the 19th century in a similarly compelling and readable style.

              • Flanders, Judith. The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime. London: HarperCollins, 2011.

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                Provides a well-researched overview, despite its sensational title. Descriptive rather than analytical, the book discusses individual murder cases, the role of newspapers and popular literature, the police, and scientific and legal transformations. Includes some excellent illustrations and a detailed index. The selected bibliography serves as useful starting point for further research.

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                • Summerscale, Kate. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Or, the Murder at Road Hill House. London: Bloomsbury, 2008.

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                  Located between fact and fiction. Reproduces the devices of the “country-house murder mystery” while offering a social history of Victorian crime, policing, and the middle-class family. Intersperses a reconstruction of the Kent murder case with references to broader social and literary trends. Index and selected bibliography useful for further research.

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                  Literature and Culture

                  Crime and punishment has featured in a multitude of literary genres that have been the subject of critical assessment for decades. Although some older publications have now been superseded by new theoretical paradigms, they are still useful as introductions to the material and will provide plenty of references to relevant literary sources from the period. Collins 1962 situates Charles Dickens’s responses to crime in a larger sociohistorical context. Altick 1970 is a classic and accessible study on murder in popular culture. Kalikoff 1986 similarly offers a basic introduction to murder in popular literature. Trodd 1989 is not particularly theorized in its approach, but it offers a valuable introduction to domestic crime in a wide range of mid-Victorian novels. Miller 1988 was highly influential in its application of Michel Foucault’s ideas to the Victorian novel and is important for understanding subsequent debates on crime and punishment in Victorian literature (see Foucault 1977 in Historical Context). Due to its style, it is recommended for an audience from advanced undergraduate level on. Similarly, Leps 1992 makes for a challenging read with a Foucauldian, intertextual analysis of criminological, journalistic, and literary writings. Joyce 2003 examines crime in relation to space and class and offers a good example of how later critics attempted to challenge the Foucauldian readings of scholars such as Miller. Alber and Lauterbach 2009 provides a wide-ranging collection on the representation of imprisonment in Victorian texts, including studies of popular and reformist writers who have previously received little critical attention. Rzepka and Horsley 2010 is helpful as an encyclopedia-style reference work, with concise and accessible chapters on a range of relevant Victorian topics and writers, although the focus of the volume as a whole is on the contemporary rather than the historical. It is therefore also useful for those wishing to gain an understanding of Victorian crime writing within a longer literary tradition to the present day.

                  • Alber, Jan, and Frank Lauterbach, eds. Stones of Law, Bricks of Shame: Narrating Imprisonment in the Victorian Age. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2009.

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                    Recent collection focusing on English narratives of imprisonment, ranging from canonical authors such as Charles Dickens to lesser-known popular and reformist texts.

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                    • Altick, Richard D. Victorian Studies in Scarlet. New York: Norton, 1970.

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                      Classic and wide-ranging study on murder in Victorian popular culture, encompassing journalism, street literature, Newgate fiction, and melodrama, among other forms. Although superseded by more recent scholarship, this accessible book is still essential reading for anybody researching murder and its representation in the 19th century.

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                      • Collins, Philip. Dickens and Crime. Cambridge Studies in Criminology 17. London: Macmillan, 1962.

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                        Classic study published under the auspices of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology and much more than a single-author monograph. Recent work in feminist criminology would challenge Collins’s stance on gender and crime, but the book remains a useful starting point for those interested in Dickens and the wider social context.

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                        • Joyce, Simon. Capital Offenses: Geographies of Class and Crime in Victorian London. Victorian Literature and Culture Series. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003.

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                          Situating itself at the intersection of urban geography and literary studies, Capital Offenses spans Newgate fiction, journalism, and late-19th-century fiction, reading spatial patterns as integral to textual constructions of crime and class. Sensitive to theoretical debates, Joyce challenges earlier readings of crime fiction such as Miller 1988.

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                          • Kalikoff, Beth. Murder and Moral Decay in Victorian Popular Literature. Nineteenth-Century Studies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press, 1986.

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                            Although its arguments have been superseded and challenged by more recent scholarship, this is still a decent basic introduction to representations of murder and social authority in the genres of melodrama, street literature, and popular fiction.

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                            • Leps, Marie-Christine. Apprehending the Criminal: The Production of Deviance in Nineteenth-Century Discourse. Post-Contemporary Interventions. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992.

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                              Ambitious Foucauldian study with a comparative angle, tracing the construction of the figure of the criminal in French and English criminological writing, journalism, and crime literature and intertextual relationships between these forms of discourse. The theoretically inflected language makes this more suitable for an audience from advanced undergraduate level onwards.

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                              • Miller, David A. The Novel and the Police. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

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                                Now classic, but often criticized, Foucauldian reading of works by Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Anthony Trollope that argues that the Victorian novel mirrored and reinforced social power. Stylistically and theoretically challenging, this book is appropriate from the advanced undergraduate level onwards.

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                                • Rzepka, Charles J., and Lee Horsley, eds. A Companion to Crime Fiction. Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture 66. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

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                                  One of the most recent companions to crime fiction, this comprehensive volume contains several entries relevant to researchers of Victorian literature on contextual matters, subgenres, and individual writers. Entries are short introductory overviews accessible for a wide audience.

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                                  • Trodd, Anthea. Domestic Crime in the Victorian Novel. Macmillan Studies in Victorian Literature. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1989.

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                                    Analyzes crime plots and court scenes as a way of exposing “the irreconcilable claims of the private and public spheres.” Examines confrontations between policemen and the home as well as the characterization of servants and female members of the middle-class family in a range of authors, including Gaskell, Dickens, Trollope, Eliot, Braddon, and Collins.

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                                    Bibliographies

                                    There are not many bibliographies available, with Palmegiano 1993 offering an extensive list of relevant articles in Victorian journals and magazines. Cooter 1989 more specifically focuses on phrenological writings, but those studying this subdiscipline of early criminology will find plenty of references to relevant historical sources.

                                    • Cooter, Roger. Phrenology in the British Isles: An Annotated, Historical Biobibliography and Index. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1989.

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                                      Index contains a number of references to 19th-century phrenological writings about crime and criminals.

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                                      • Palmegiano, Eugenia M. Crime in Victorian Britain: An Annotated Bibliography from Nineteenth-Century British Magazines. Bibliographies and Indexes in World History 31. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1993.

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                                        Lists crime-related articles in forty-five journals and offers an introduction with overviews of pertinent themes. Each journal is briefly introduced with a useful headnote explaining its political tendency and general stance on crime. A detailed author and subject index makes this an excellent reference guide.

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                                        Archives

                                        The digital humanities have made available invaluable and previously difficult to access historical material. Harvard’s Crime Broadsides collection gives free access to an archive of British broadsides, and researchers searching for specific crimes or perpetrators will find its search functions beneficial. The equally free Old Bailey Online reproduces trial transcripts from London’s Central Criminal Court, with excellent guidelines for a diverse audience of all levels. The Bodleian Library’s digitized John Johnson Collection, with its archive of crime broadsides, can only be accessed through subscribing libraries, but it offers a valuable alternative for those otherwise prevented from viewing this rare and fragile material.

                                        Primary Texts

                                        Victorian writers and commentators avidly engaged with questions of crime and punishment, from first-person accounts of prison experiences or witnessing the spectacle of public executions, to reformist tracts on penal practices or the physical and mental constitution of offenders.

                                        Life Writing

                                        Since autobiographical accounts by Victorian prisoners are relatively rare and less frequently cited, this section provides a few references as a starting point. Joseph 1853 is useful for thinking about the problems with representing prisoner perspectives, because it evidently mediates convict voices for strategic purposes. Hard copies of Joseph 1853 are relatively hard to come by, but some libraries offer subscription-based access to the digitized version. Five Years’ Penal Servitude (first published 1877), which is interesting as an atypical, gentlemanly prisoner’s views on the convict system, has been reproduced in a 1984 facsimile edition obtainable in good research institutions. Fletcher 2003 (first published 1884) is the first full-length autobiography by a woman sentenced to imprisonment in England, which, thanks to Routledge’s facsimile edition, is widely available in research libraries, although readers should be prepared for lengthy passages on the history of spiritualism rather than simply an account of incarceration.

                                        • Five Years’ Penal Servitude: By One Who Has Endured It. New York: Garland, 1984.

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                                          Purporting to be the authentic account of a gentleman prisoner’s experiences (and variously attributed to Edward Callow or William Hamilton Thomson) this volume, which is one of the first long prison autobiographies, describes living conditions in three different English prisons and offers suggestions on the reform of the convict system. First published in 1877 (London: R. Bentley).

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                                          • Fletcher, Susan Willis. Twelve Months in an English Prison. Vol. 2 of Women, Madness and Spiritualism. Edited by Roy Porter, Helen Nicholson, and Bridget Bennett. History of Feminism. London: Routledge, 2003.

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                                            First full-length female prison autobiography set in an English prison, published by an American spiritualist convicted of fraud. Although also pitched as a vindication of spiritualism as a movement, the text is framed as a contribution to prison reform debates. First published in Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1884.

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                                            • Joseph, Henry S. Memoirs of Convicted Prisoners: Accompanied by Remarks on the Causes and Prevention of Crime. London: Wertheim, 1853.

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                                              Collection of fifteen convict autobiographies and twenty-six letters from former prisoners by the chaplain of Chester Castle Gaol. All stories are highly formulaic, ending in moral reform. Readers should be wary of the texts’ strategic function and potential inauthenticity.

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                                              Reformist, Journalistic, Medico-Scientific, and Criminological Writing

                                              Both men and women commented on penal debates, although purely scientific constructions of the criminal were typically the domain of male writers. Carpenter 1853 is the account of a woman active in the reformatory schools movement who was regarded as enough of an authority to be asked to give evidence on young offenders before a select committee of the House of Commons. Her book is therefore a suitable starting point for those wishing to understand reformist ideas about juvenile delinquency in the Victorian period. Both Carpenter 1864 and Martineau 1865 illustrate how female reformer-writers claimed the right to intervene into the subject of prison reform and criminal reformation. Ellis 1890 is essential reading for understanding late-19th-century scientific theories about criminality, as is Lombroso and Ferrero 1895. Originally published in Italian, Lombroso’s body of work was a key reference point for English writers like Ellis. Krafft-Ebing 1922 is an early medico-forensic study first published in German in 1886, designed to challenge legal responses to sexual offenses.

                                              • Carpenter, Mary. Juvenile Delinquents, Their Condition and Treatment. Making of Modern Law. London: Cash, 1853.

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                                                Systematic and well-researched survey of juvenile crime and appropriate responses. Rejecting purely materialist approaches to criminality, Carpenter sees crime as a “moral disease” rather than the consequence of social deprivation. Also takes a comparative approach by including chapters on reformatory institutions in America and continental Europe for comparison.

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                                                • Carpenter, Mary. Our Convicts. 2 vols. Making of Modern Law. London: Longman, 1864.

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                                                  Carpenter’s magnum opus provides a critical examination of the condition and treatment of adult criminals. Emblematic of a new social-scientific language and the rise of colonial tropes in reformist writing on crime at the time. Reviewed in Martineau 1865.

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                                                  • Ellis, Havelock. The Criminal. London: Scott, 1890.

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                                                    A key text for understanding late-Victorian scientific theories of criminality, Ellis’s work summarized findings by continental criminal anthropologists for an English-speaking audience. Sections on “Criminal Literature and Art” and “Criminal Philosophy” discuss writing by prisoners.

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                                                    • Krafft-Ebing, Richard von. Psychopathia Sexualis: With Especial Reference to the Antipathic Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Forensic Study. Translated by F. J. Rebman. London: Heinemann, 1922.

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                                                      Based on the twelfth German edition published in 1903 and explicitly addressed to scientific and legal experts, this medico-forensic study aims to “assist in removing erroneous ideas and superannuated laws” resulting in “unjust decisions” regarding sexual crimes and argues for the decriminalization of homosexuality (while also pathologizing it).

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                                                      • Lombroso, Caesar, and William Ferrero. The Female Offender. Criminology series 1. London: Fisher Unwin, 1895.

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                                                        This English translation of the original La Donna Delinquente (1893) is an infamous study of women’s criminality by two Italian criminal anthropologists to complement Lombroso’s earlier L’Uomo Delinquente (1876) (translated as Criminal Man, 1911). Establishes links between physical features and behavior. Relates female offending to “atavism” and “virility.”

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                                                        • Martineau, Harriet. “Life in the Criminal Class.” Edinburgh Review 122 (1865): 337–371.

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                                                          The prolific social commentator’s reviews of Mary Carpenter’s Our Convicts (1864) and Memoirs of Jane Cameron, Female Convict (1864), by “A Prison Matron” (Frederick William Robinson), interspersed with Martineau’s own musings on crime and punishment.

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                                                          Crime in the Imperial Context

                                                          This section illustrates how social commentators even before late-Victorian high imperialism discursively connected criminality and racial difference to justify European intervention. Carpenter 1867 is a good introduction to thinking about prison reform in the imperial context. Holme 1841 and Hutton 1857 both illustrate a tendency in earlier Victorian writing to conflate the criminal and the foreign.

                                                          • Carpenter, Mary. Suggestions on Prison Discipline and Female Education in India. London: Longmans, 1867.

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                                                            Based on Carpenter’s visits to Indian jails, this piece offers recommendations on prison reform in India, including the introduction of European lady visitors for female prisoners to exert “a kind and good influence.”

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                                                            • Holme, Frederick. “The Secret Societies of Asia: The Assassins and the Thugs.” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine 49 (1841): 229–244.

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                                                              Casts Asian societies as suffused with murderous impulses in order to legitimize British intervention.

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                                                              • Hutton, James. A Popular Account of the Thugs and Dacoits: The Hereditary Garotters and Gang-Robbers of India. London: Allen, 1857.

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                                                                Published in the year of the Indian Mutiny, this piece aligned political rebellion in India with supposedly natural criminal impulses in order to justify continued imperialist intervention.

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                                                                Prisons

                                                                Dickens 1995 offers insight into life at Newgate prison. Carlyle 1850, Dickens 1996a, and Dickens 1996b made later, controversial interventions into Victorian penal debates that had repercussions in other contemporaneous publications. Field 1846 explicitly responds to Dickens’s portrayals of the Philadelphia system of solitary confinement in American Notes (Dickens 1996b). Chesterton 1856 and Robinson 1862 provide character sketches from prison life, the latter with a focus on female prisoners, supposedly written from the perspective of “A Prison Matron.” Mayhew and Binny 1862 draws portrayals of prisoners and offers empirical data in a hefty tome on London prisons that still serves as a valuable starting point for researchers interested in imprisonment during the period.

                                                                • Carlyle, Thomas. “Model Prisons.” In Latter-Day Pamphlets. By Thomas Carlyle, 59–103. London: Chapman and Hall, 1850.

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                                                                  The Victorian sage’s attack on the English prison system, which probably inspired Dickens 1996a.

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                                                                  • Chesterton, George Laval. Revelations of Prison Life: With an Enquiry into Prison Discipline and Secondary Punishments. 2 vols. 2d ed. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1856.

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                                                                    Somewhat pompous but readable account of prison discipline by the former governor of London’s Cold Bath Fields House of Correction, who was an opponent of the separate system favored by the government. Contains some sensationalized character sketches similar to those in Frederick William Robinson’s later writings (Robinson 1862).

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                                                                    • Dickens, Charles. “A Visit to Newgate.” In Sketches by Boz. Edited by Dennis Walder, 234–248. London: Penguin, 1995.

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                                                                      Based on the author’s visit to the London prison in 1835 and designed to draw his contemporaries’ attention to “the throng of wretched creatures pent up within it.”

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                                                                      • Dickens, Charles. “Pet Prisoners.” In Dickens’ Journalism. Vol. 2, ‘The Amusements of the People’ and Other Papers: Reports, Essays and Reviews, 1834–51. Edited by Michael Slater, 212–227. London: Dent, 1996a.

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                                                                        Probably partially inspired by Thomas Carlyle’s attack on the English prison system in Carlyle 1850, this piece objects to Pentonville prison’s solitary system because of its supposed luxuriousness. Also responds to the accusations against Dickens’s writings on the Philadelphia system in Field 1846.

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                                                                        • Dickens, Charles. American Notes. New York: Modern Library, 1996b.

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                                                                          Originally published in 1842. Contains the novelist’s attack on the Philadelphia separate system of Pentonville prison in London. Dickens’s views were dismissed by proponents of the separate system, such as the Reverend Field (see Field 1846).

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                                                                          • Field, John. Prison Discipline: The Advantages of the Separate System of Imprisonment, as Established in the New County Gaol of Reading: With a Description of the Former Prisons, and a Detailed Account of the Discipline Now Pursued. London: Longman, 1846.

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                                                                            A defense of the separate system by Reading prison’s chaplain. Includes attack on Dickens’s writing on the Philadelphia separate system in Dickens 1996b. Field displays anxiety about the effects of Dickens’s criticism on the novelist’s large popular audience. Good example of competition between different forms of knowledge production about imprisonment.

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                                                                            • Mayhew, Henry, and John Binny. The Criminal Prisons of London, and Scenes of Prison Life. Great Metropolis. London: Griffin, Bohn, 1862.

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                                                                              Classic piece of investigative journalism that complements Mayhew’s better-known study London Labour and the London Poor. Detailed descriptions of visits to various London prisons with numerous illustrations and statistics.

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                                                                              • Robinson, Frederick William. Female Life in Prison: By a Prison Matron. 2 vols. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1862.

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                                                                                Part of a series of successful narratives of women in prison by a popular fiction writer and metropolitan journalist, this work was long regarded as an authentic account by “A Prison Matron.” Early attempt to write a social history of female life in prison, in explicit contrast to official documentation.

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                                                                                Prison Visiting and Philanthropy

                                                                                Middle-class women were particularly active in the area of prison visiting and philanthropy, with the pioneering Quaker Elizabeth Fry first entering London’s Newgate prison in 1813. Fry remained a key model for later female philanthropists. Fry 1827 is a useful introduction to the motivations of early female philanthropists, while Wrench 1852 offers an overview of subsequent activities in the mid-century. Scougal 2010 (first published 1889) revisits similar concerns in a late-19th-century context.

                                                                                • Fry, Elizabeth. Observations on the Visiting, Superintendence, and Government, of Female Prisoners. London: J. and A. Arch, 1827.

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                                                                                  Fry’s systematic account of the way she believed a women’s prison should be conducted. Lays out her project of actively involving middle-class women outside the domestic sphere and reclaiming female prisoners as “useful” members of society. A rare book that is now available in digitized form through good research libraries.

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                                                                                  • Scougal, Francis. Scenes from a Silent World: Or, Prisons and Their Inmates. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                    Echoing the agenda of Dickens 1995 (cited under Prisons), these writings by Felicia Skene, originally published in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1889, seek to make “the unseen prison world” visible to “the general public.” Pleads against capital punishment and for the constitution of a “band of visitors” to facilitate the reformation of prisoners. Modern facsimile edition available.

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                                                                                    • Wrench, Matilda. Visits to Female Prisoners at Home and Abroad. London: Wertheim and Macintosh, 1852.

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                                                                                      A book “edited at the request of the committee of the British Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners” first established by Elizabeth Fry in 1821, it gives an overview of philanthropic activities in prisons across the United Kingdom, continental Europe, America, and the penal colonies in Australia.

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                                                                                      Executions

                                                                                      Public executions in England were not abolished until 1868. The practice of capital punishment and the conduct of its popular audience inspired passionate responses by literary authors. Both Thackeray and Dickens (see Thackeray 1840, Dickens 1996, and Dickens 1998) famously criticized the practice of public executions and the effects on the popular audience. Dickens’s interventions are a useful background for his literary portrayals of capital punishment in earlier novels such as Oliver Twist. Webster 1856 collects pleas for the abolition of the death penalty.

                                                                                      • Dickens, Charles. “The Finishing Schoolmaster.” In Dickens’ Journalism. Vol. 2, ‘The Amusements of the People’ and Other Papers: Reports, Essays and Reviews, 1834–51. Edited by Michael Slater, 350–356. London: Dent, 1996.

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                                                                                        Piece on the negative effects of public executions on the watching public. First published in Household Words in 1850.

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                                                                                        • Dickens, Charles. “Lying Awake.” In Dickens’ Journalism. Vol. 3, ‘Gone Astray’ and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851–59. Edited by Michael Slater, 88–95. London: Dent, 1998.

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                                                                                          The novelist’s reflections on being haunted by his visit to the public execution of Frederick George Manning and his wife Maria. First published in Household Words in 1852.

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                                                                                          • Mayhew, Henry. “On Capital Punishments.” In Three Papers on Capital Punishment. By Edward Webster, Alfred H. Dymond, and Henry Mayhew, 32–61. Edited by Society for Promoting the Amendment of the Law. London: Cox, 1856.

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                                                                                            Exposé on the abolition of the death penalty. Includes the journalist Henry Mayhew’s views on the subject.

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                                                                                            • Thackeray, William Makepeace. “Going to See a Man Hanged,” Fraser’s Magazine 22 (August 1840): 150–158.

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                                                                                              The novelist’s attack on the death penalty, based on his visit to the public execution of the murderer Courvoisier. Describes feeling “ashamed and degraded” by the “brutal sight.”

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                                                                                              Genres of Writing

                                                                                              The representation of crime and punishment in the Victorian period is associated with some distinctive genres that emerged out of this historical moment, such as Newgate Fiction, Sensation Fiction, and Detective Fiction. There is also growing interest in how Poetry and Life Writing from the Victorian era tackled criminality and responses to it.

                                                                                              Life Writing

                                                                                              Frost and Maxwell-Stewart 2001 offers an eclectic collection of essays on convict voices written by scholars from different academic disciplines. Jason Haslam is one of the authorities in the recent critical reassessment of prison autobiography in literary studies. Haslam 2005 provides a good introduction to the subject and the history of critical debates on this narrative form, although it does not exclusively focus on the Victorian period. Haslam and Wright 2005 is useful for thinking about narratives of confinement in the wider sense, discussing prison autobiography alongside slave narratives. Although Priestley 1999 lacks critical-theoretical rigor in its approach to its sources, this pioneering and engaging account is a valuable starting point for those looking for historical material on prisoner perspectives.

                                                                                              • Frost, Lucy, and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. Chain Letters: Narrating Convict Lives. Carlton South, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                Collection on the lost voices of convicts transported to Australia. Useful on methodology, contributions from different disciplines examine a range of texts and artifacts, including coins and tattoos, as containers of convict stories.

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                                                                                                • Haslam, Jason. Fitting Sentences: Identity in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Prison Narratives. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                  Haslam’s work is at the forefront of recent critical efforts to give serious attention to prisoners’ voices. Includes chapters on the American Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau’s reflections on imprisonment for tax evasion and on Oscar Wilde’s letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, De Profundis, compiled during Wilde’s incarceration for “gross indecency.”

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                                                                                                  • Haslam, Jason, and Julia M. Wright, eds. Captivating Subjects: Writing Confinement, Citizenship, and Nationhood in the Nineteenth Century. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                    Emblematic of an important critical trend situating narratives of imprisonment in relation to nation-formation and slave narratives. Also contains contributions on class and representational strategies in Victorian prison writing in England, such as Five Years’ Penal Servitude (first published 1877, cited under Primary Texts: Life Writing).

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                                                                                                    • Priestley, Philip. Victorian Prison Lives: English Prison Biography, 1830–1914. London: Pimlico, 1999.

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                                                                                                      Pioneering study of Victorian prison (auto)biography. Aims to write a social history of the prison by fusing “hundreds of personal narratives of life in the nineteenth-century English prison into a single, collective account” (p. xix). Lacks attention to textuality and genre conventions of its sources, but remains a useful reference. Originally published in 1985.

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                                                                                                      Poetry

                                                                                                      O’Brien 2008 is essential reading on crime in Victorian poetry and the only comprehensive study around. Alkalay-Gut 1997 focuses more narrowly on canonical writer Oscar Wilde’s famous prison ballad.

                                                                                                      • Alkalay-Gut, Karen. “The Thing He Loves: Murder as Aesthetic Experience in ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol.’” Victorian Poetry 35.3 (Fall 1997): 349–366.

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                                                                                                        Article analyzes the representation of murder, the erasure of the female victim, and the exculpation of the murderer in the poem, against the criminalization of the prison as an institution. Situates the poem in a larger context of Victorian poetry.

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                                                                                                        • O’Brien, Ellen. Crime in Verse: The Poetics of Murder in the Victorian Era. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                          Only comprehensive study of poetic representations of murder, which reads canonical texts by Oscar Wilde, Robert Browning, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti alongside popular street ballads. Aligning itself with historicist scholarship, the book challenges the categories of “high and low” culture, establishing connections among these diverse texts’ content, politics, and form.

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                                                                                                          Fiction

                                                                                                          Representations of crime and punishment in Victorian fiction can be divided into subcategories, reflecting the rise of three interlinked popular genres at different moments of time, from Newgate Fiction in the 1830s, via Sensation Fiction in the 1860s, to Detective Fiction, spanning several decades in the second half of the 19th century.

                                                                                                          Newgate Fiction

                                                                                                          Pykett 2003 offers a concise and accessible introduction, while Hollingsworth 1963 is more comprehensive in its approach; but due to its date of publication, the latter should be read in conjunction with more recent work. John 2001 focuses on Dickens but is also valuable for situating Newgate fiction in a wider context of cultural debates.

                                                                                                          • Hollingsworth, Keith. The Newgate Novel, 1830–1847: Bulwer, Ainsworth, Dickens, and Thackeray. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963.

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                                                                                                            The classic and most comprehensive study of Newgate fiction, addressed to literary scholars and a wider audience. Examines how authors of Newgate novels and British society as a whole negotiated criminality and debated appropriate responses to it.

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                                                                                                            • John, Juliet. Dickens’s Villains: Melodrama, Character, Popular Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                              Illuminating study that investigates the relationship between 19th-century theater and the novelist’s dramatization of deviance. Argues that Dickens’s construction of melodramatic villains demonstrates his commitment to education through a popular “externalized” aesthetics. The chapter on Newgate fiction discusses Oliver Twist in a broader context of debates around Newgate novels and melodrama.

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                                                                                                              • Pykett, Lynn. “The Newgate Novel and Sensation Fiction, 1830–1868.” In The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. Edited by Martin Priestman, 19–39. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521803993Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Introductory overview of the popular genre of Newgate fiction in contrast to the later genre of sensation fiction. Particularly suitable for undergraduates.

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                                                                                                                Sensation Fiction

                                                                                                                Pykett 2003 is a useful, concise introduction to the genre. Maunder and Moore 2004 offers the more advanced reader a volume with a range of perspectives on different forms of popular crime writing. Mangham 2007 focuses on the representation of violent women and is of particular interest to those researching the connection between literature and medicine.

                                                                                                                • Mangham, Andrew. Violent Women and Sensation Fiction: Crime, Medicine, and Victorian Popular Culture. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1057/9780230286993Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Reading medical, legal, and journalistic sources alongside novels by Wilkie Collins, M. E. Braddon, and Mrs. Henry Wood, Mangham shows how wider cultural debates on women impacted on the construction of violent women in sensation fiction. Also suitable for an undergraduate audience.

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                                                                                                                  • Maunder, Andrew, and Grace Moore, eds. Victorian Crime, Madness and Sensation. The Nineteenth Century. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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                                                                                                                    This collection charts the interface of fact and fiction in different forms of popular crime writing, including the sensation novel. Accessible, but slightly more suitable for the specialized researcher.

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                                                                                                                    • Pykett, Lynn. “The Newgate Novel and Sensation Fiction, 1830–1868.” In The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. Edited by Martin Priestman, 19–39. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521803993Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Introductory overview of the popular genre of sensation fiction in contrast to the earlier genre of Newgate fiction. Particularly suitable for undergraduates.

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                                                                                                                      Detective Fiction

                                                                                                                      Knight 1980 is a classic study of the genre, still useful as an introduction to canonical writers like Poe and Conan Doyle, although its theoretical stance has been challenged. Thomas 1999 and Frank 2003 provide good examples of a broadly historicist approach to the genre, reading detective fiction in the context of contemporaneous science. Reitz 2004 represents recent critical trends to read narratives of detection as part of the imperial imagination. Kestner 2003 stands for new work on the critical reevaluation of previously overlooked writings about female detectives.

                                                                                                                      • Frank, Lawrence. Victorian Detective Fiction and the Nature of Evidence: The Scientific Investigations of Poe, Dickens, and Doyle. Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1057/9781403919328Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Broadly new historicist study that includes detailed readings of scientific texts. Harks back to the theoretical tenets of deconstruction, explicitly setting itself apart from Knight 1980, Miller 1988 (cited under Literature and Culture), and Thomas 1999, which see detective fiction as reinforcing the power relations of bourgeois society.

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                                                                                                                        • Kestner, Joseph A. Sherlock’s Sisters: The British Female Detective, 1864–1913. The Nineteenth Century. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003.

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                                                                                                                          Survey that systematically details the female detective’s rise in fiction from the 1860s on, dedicating relatively short sections to the discussion of a wide range of detective stories, from more obscure authors to Wilkie Collins and M. E. Braddon. Could usefully be read in conjunction with Miller 2008 (cited under Women and Crime).

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                                                                                                                          • Knight, Stephen. Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1980.

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                                                                                                                            Classic and now oft-challenged study of crime fiction, including commentary on Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. Situating himself in the sociology of literature and Marxist literary scholarship, Knight relates content and form of crime writing to bourgeois ideology, prefiguring later critics like D. A. Miller (see Miller 1988, cited under Literature and Culture).

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                                                                                                                            • Reitz, Caroline. Detecting the Nation: Fictions of Detection and the Imperial Venture. Victorian Critical Interventions. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                              Short study that analyzes the shift in 19th-century detective fiction from a suspicion of the detective and the imperial project to an identification with both. Challenges prior Foucauldian readings and positions itself as a contribution to a body of work that reconceptualizes the links between narrative forms and national identity.

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                                                                                                                              • Thomas, Ronald. Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science. Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture 26. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                Partially indebted to Foucauldian approaches, Thomas investigates the interrelationship between English and American detective fiction and the history of forensic technology. Thomas departs from critics such as D. A. Miller in that he sees literature as both enforcing and resisting cultural authority.

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                                                                                                                                Drama

                                                                                                                                Melodrama was one of the most significant popular forms that brought crime stories to large audiences. Altick 1970 is useful for situating crime in melodrama in a larger context of Victorian popular culture, but due to its publication date, it should be read in conjunction with later publications such as John 2001. Pedley 2004 offers a detailed study of theatrical adaptations of one specific real-life crime case with a particularly enduring impact on the cultural imagination. John 2001 provides a wider-ranging explanation of constructions of criminality in Victorian theater.

                                                                                                                                • Altick, Richard D. Victorian Studies in Scarlet. New York: Norton, 1970.

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                                                                                                                                  Altick’s classic study of murder in Victorian popular culture contains a chapter on murder in 19th-century theater (including puppet theater). Aside from providing useful references to little-known melodramas, the chapter comments on dramatic adaptations of sensation fiction and Dickens’s infamous enactments of the Nancy-Sikes murder scene in Oliver Twist.

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                                                                                                                                  • John, Juliet. Dickens’s Villains: Melodrama, Character, Popular Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                    Although this study focuses on the relationship between 19th-century theater and Dickens’s dramatization of deviance through melodramatic villains, it offers a broader understanding of constructions of criminality in 19th-century theater. A critical response to prior psychoanalytical readings that neglect the radical ideological implications of melodramatic villainy.

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                                                                                                                                    • Pedley, Catherine. “Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn: The Theatricality of Provincial Life.” Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film 31.1 (2004): 26–40.

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                                                                                                                                      Study of theatrical adaptations of the real-life murder of Maria Marten in the broader context of popular culture and the emergence of mass audiences.

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                                                                                                                                      Reformist, Journalistic, Medico-Scientific, and Criminological Writing

                                                                                                                                      Smith 1981 introduces readers to the competing discourses of medicine and law in the context of Victorian crime, while Eigen 1995 is particularly interested in insanity trial testimonies by witnesses and prisoners in the earlier part of the 19th century. Burney 2000 focuses on medico-legal debates around the coroner’s inquest. Wiener 2006 illuminates the role of judges in shaping knowledge about criminals. Watson 2011 traces the rise of forensic medicine through a comparative approach. Smith, Watson, and Wiener come from the perspectives of the history of science, the history of medicine, and cultural history, respectively; and all largely rely on historical sources. Sociologist Eigen works with legal-historical evidence, the Old Bailey Sessions Papers, with some attention to the language employed by different historical agents. Schwan 2010 also takes a more textual approach, combining readings of reformer Mary Carpenter’s language on criminals with a broader cultural history of female prison reform.

                                                                                                                                      • Burney, Ian A. Bodies of Evidence: Medicine and the Politics of the English Inquest, 1830–1926. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                        Explores practices and social debates around the coroner’s inquest, a tribunal into causes of death. Draws on medico-legal and journalistic commentary. Despite brief references to Dickens’s responses to inquests, this study is primarily designed for those interested in medico-legal history and suitable for postgraduates rather than undergraduates.

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                                                                                                                                        • Eigen, Joel Peter. Witnessing Insanity: Madness and Mad-Doctors in the English Court. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                          Studies testimonies about mental impairment in insanity trials from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century, especially the language of early forensic-psychiatric witnesses, but also that of prisoners making their own defense. Resists Foucauldian approaches. Appendix “Deciding When and Where to Quantify” contains helpful methodological considerations on the use of historical data.

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                                                                                                                                          • Schwan, Anne. “‘Dreadful Beyond Description’: Mary Carpenter’s Prison Reform Writings and Female Convicts in Britain and India.” European Journal of English Studies 14.2 (2010): 107–120.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/13825577.2010.481450Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Situates Carpenter in a longer tradition of female prison reform while illustrating how her writings departed from predecessors like Elizabeth Fry in that they discursively connected (female) criminality with a larger national narrative.

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                                                                                                                                            • Smith, Roger. Trial by Medicine: Insanity and Responsibility in Victorian Trials. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                              Traces attitudes toward insanity and culpability in criminal law and examines the competition between legal and medical discourses in the Victorian period. Discusses some controversial court cases that tried to use the “insanity defense.”

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                                                                                                                                              • Watson, Katherine D. Forensic Medicine in Western Society: A History. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                Comparative study of the rise of forensic medicine in continental Europe, Britain, and the United States. Contains chapters on criminal responsibility, the insanity defense, and the medicalization of deviance in the 19th century. Useful lists of suggested further reading at the end of each chapter.

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                                                                                                                                                • Wiener, Martin J. “Murderers and ‘Reasonable Men’: The ‘Criminology’ of the Victorian Judiciary.” In Criminals and Their Scientists: The History of Criminology in International Perspective. Edited by Peter Becker and Richard F. Wetzell, 43–60. Publications of the German Historical Institute. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139052405Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Reclaims the largely forgotten power-knowledge of the Victorian era’s influential High Court judges and their interpretations of the law as “an essential chapter in the history of criminology.” Uses law and newspaper reports and the Home Office archives.

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                                                                                                                                                  Juvenile Offenders

                                                                                                                                                  Juvenile offenders were a particularly troublesome subject for Victorian commentators and were made famous in literary depictions such as Oliver Twist. Shore 1999 is the key text for grasping the larger sociohistorical context pertaining to juvenile delinquency and its punishment in the Victorian period, but there are only occasional references to literature. By contrast, Wolff 1996 provides a literary analysis of Oliver Twist in a broader context of other journalistic and reformist writings.

                                                                                                                                                  • Shore, Heather. Artful Dodgers: Youth and Crime in Early Nineteenth-Century London. Royal Historical Society Studies in History. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                    Social history of young offenders, with occasional references to literary sources. Charts patterns of juvenile crime and punishment and debates over causes and treatment.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Wolff, Larry. “‘The Boys Are Pickpockets, and the Girl Is a Prostitute’: Gender and Juvenile Criminality in Early Victorian England from Oliver Twist to London Labour.” New Literary History 27.2 (Spring 1996): 227–249.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1353/nlh.1996.0029Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Focuses on Dickens’s “confessed reliance on implication and inference” in Oliver Twist to argue that the boys, like Nancy, can be read as prostitutes and Fagin as a pimp. Also examines the strategic, gendered coding of juvenile crime and prostitution in writings by Henry Mayhew and William Acton.

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                                                                                                                                                      Gender and Crime

                                                                                                                                                      The impact of gendered views on representations of crime and penal practice is a growing area of research. Although most related scholarship focuses on women, masculinity is receiving increasing attention in this context.

                                                                                                                                                      Women and Crime

                                                                                                                                                      Zedner 1991 is the most comprehensive introduction available for general background understanding of the historical context, although it offers little on literary sources. Hartman 1977 provides case studies of middle-class women charged with murder and, like Zedner 1991, is useful for general context. Knelman 1998 extends such work to a survey of representations of female killers in journalism (and street literature, as a forerunner of the popular press), while Morris 1990 takes an in-depth look at female murderers in Victorian novels. Ainsley 2000 investigates the gendering of insanity acquittals. Miller 2008 turns to the critically neglected figure of the new woman criminal in turn-of-the-century popular fiction and early crime films, while Schwan 2009 offers the first extended critical reading of Frederick William Robinson’s tales of female imprisonment, until recently understood by scholars as the authentic account of “A Prison Matron.” Lacey 2008 considers women and criminal responsibility in the 18th and 19th centuries.

                                                                                                                                                      • Ainsley, Jill Newton. “‘Some Mysterious Agency’: Women, Violent Crime, and the Insanity Acquittal in the Victorian Courtroom.” Canadian Journal of History 35.1 (April 2000): 37–55.

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                                                                                                                                                        Compares samples of women’s and men’s trials in which the insanity plea was used in order to explore the ways in which insanity acquittals were gendered.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Hartman, Mary S. Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes. London: Robson, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                          Although complemented by more recent work, this study remains a key text on female criminality in the Victorian period. A series of case studies of high-profile murder cases. Focus is on middle-class women who, statistically, constituted a minority among defendants in Victorian courts. Works with contextual rather than literary sources.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Knelman, Judith. Twisting in the Wind: The Murderess and the English Press. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                            Surveys responses to female killers in Victorian street literature and newspapers, varying from demonizations of such women to sympathetic portrayals that cast the perpetrators as victims of social conditions rather than monsters. Includes different types of murder and several high-profile cases. Useful chronology of cases in the appendix.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Lacey, Nicola. Women, Crime, and Character: From Moll Flanders to Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Clarendon Law Lectures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199544363.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Interdisciplinary study that examines shifting attitudes toward gender and criminal responsibility and their representation in fiction. Includes a detailed chapter on Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Miller, Elizabeth Carolyn. Framed: The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin de Siècle. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                Insightful study of turn-of-the-century detective fiction (contrasting Conan Doyle with the female writer L. T. Meade), early crime films, and the emerging genre of dynamite narrative. Examines these genres’ use of the neglected figure of the female criminal “to make sense of social and political shifts associated with modernity” (p. 7). Complemented by Kestner 2003 (cited under Detective Fiction).

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                                                                                                                                                                • Morris, Virginia B. Double Jeopardy: Women Who Kill in Victorian Fiction. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Focuses on literary representations of female murderers in novels by Dickens, Eliot, Braddon, Collins, Conan Doyle, and Hardy, while considering wider social responses to women who kill.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Schwan, Anne. “From ‘Dry Volumes of Facts and Figures’ to Stories of ‘Flesh and Blood’: The Prison Narratives of Frederick William Robinson.” In Stones of Law, Bricks of Shame: Narrating Imprisonment in the Victorian Age. Edited by Jan Alber and Frank Lauterbach, 191–212. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                    First detailed reading of Robinson’s prison narratives (published under the anonym “A Prison Matron”) that considers the textuality of these accounts rather than reading them as a source of empirical evidence. Places Robinson’s writings in a wider context of debates on female prisoners and prison staff.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Zedner, Lucia. Women, Crime, and Custody in Victorian England. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                      The most comprehensive study of women and crime in the Victorian period to date, this historical account surveys policies and penal practice as well as changing concepts of women’s criminality. Only occasional references to literary sources.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Infanticide

                                                                                                                                                                      Arnot 2000 offers a short introduction into social and legal reactions to newborn child murder, while McDonagh 2003 is the most comprehensive and ambitious study of infanticide and its representation in the Victorian period, usefully situating Victorian debates in a longer historical narrative. Krueger 1997 provides a shorter introduction to the interface between literary and legal debates in this context. Jackson 2002 contains several articles on infanticide in the 19th century from a historical perspective. Arnot 1994 and Bentley 2005 turn to infanticide in the context of the child-care practice of “baby-farming.”

                                                                                                                                                                      • Arnot, Margaret L. “Infant Death, Child Care and the State: The Baby-Farming Scandal and the First Infant Life Protection Legislation of 1872.” Continuity and Change 9.2 (August 1994): 271–311.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0268416000002290Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Discusses the origin of the phrase and details the practice of “baby-farming.” Analyzes debates around the baby-farming scandal and its female protagonists, the role of working mothers, and the implementation of the Infant Life Protection Act of 1872.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Arnot, Margaret L. “Understanding Women Committing Newborn Child Murder in Victorian England.” In Everyday Violence in Britain, 1850–1950: Gender and Class. Edited by Shani D’Cruze, 55–69. Women and Men in History. Harlow, UK: Longman, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Useful, short introduction to thinking about individual cases of newborn child murder and broader social and legal responses. Draws on psychological explanations of modern-day infanticide to interpret Victorian cases.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Bentley, David. “She-Butchers: Baby-Droppers, Baby-Sweaters, and Baby-Farmers.” In Criminal Conversations: Victorian Crimes, Social Panic, and Moral Outrage. Edited by Judith Rowbotham and Kim Stevenson, 198–214. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Examines the Victorian child-care practice of “baby-farming” and related murders and responses in law and the media.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Jackson, Mark, ed. Infanticide: Historical Perspectives on Child Murder and Concealment, 1550–2000. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Includes case studies of individual child murder cases and an overview of legal responses in the 19th century. Also contains brief discussions of baby-farming and articles on puerperal insanity and defense pleas.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Krueger, Christine L. “Literary Defenses and Medical Prosecutions: Representing Infanticide in Nineteenth-Century Britain.” Victorian Studies 40.2 (Winter 1997): 271–294.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Argues that literary portrayals of infanticides helped forge a broad consensus that protected such women from prosecution and punishment.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • McDonagh, Josephine. Child Murder and British Culture, 1720–1900. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Extensive study analyzing the motif of child murder and its “complex and often contradictory meanings” in a broader sociohistorical context. Uses a wide range of literary and cultural texts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Men and Crime

                                                                                                                                                                                  Still an emerging field of research, masculinity and crime has been the focus of a few recent studies. Smith 2004 investigates constructions of masculinity and criminality in a range of fin-de-siècle texts. Wiener 2004 is a wide-ranging account of attitudes toward violent crime by men against women, of interest to historians and literary scholars alike. Godfrey 2011 builds on Wiener’s findings with a more specific analysis of middle-class men’s responses to the threat of violent crime.

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Godfrey, Emelyne. Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature. Crime Files Series. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Explores changing models of middle-class masculinity by focusing on the gentleman city-goer’s responses to violent crime in a larger cultural context of the Empire and democratization. Sources analyzed range from popular plays via Anthony Trollope to Arthur Conan Doyle. Explicitly builds on Wiener 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Smith, Andrew. Victorian Demons: Medicine, Masculinity and the Gothic at the Fin-De-Siècle. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Although not exclusively dedicated to an in-depth analysis of crime and punishment, Smith’s study repeatedly touches on these themes. Situates literary texts, including ones by Conan Doyle, Stevenson, and Wilde, within a broader context of cultural and medical writings. Contains a chapter on the Whitechapel (“Jack the Ripper”) Murders.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Wiener, Martin J. Men of Blood: Violence, Manliness, and Criminal Justice in Victorian England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511511547Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        A comprehensive cultural history of violent offenses by men against women and the shifts in legal and social responses to them, contextualized in changing attitudes about gender. Includes numerous references to journalistic and fictional texts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Sex Crimes

                                                                                                                                                                                        Sex offenses such as prostitution have been of particular interest to feminist critics, while recent queer approaches to Victorian literature and culture have given rise to interrogations of the criminalization of (male) homosexuality. Most of the listed titles provide contextual understanding rather than literary analyses, and all are suitable for an undergraduate audience and more advanced readers. A good starting point for research into late-Victorian debates around law and sexuality, Robb and Erber 1999 surveys a range of legal disputes over sexual morality and press reportage of turn-of-the-century court cases.

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Robb, George, and Nancy Erber, eds. Disorder in the Court: Trials and Sexual Conflict at the Turn of the Century. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1999.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1057/9781403934314Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Collection discusses disputes over sexual morality staged in fin-de-siècle court cases and trial reportage in the media. Includes divorce cases, obscenity trials, and prosecutions for homosexuality. Takes a comparative perspective, ranging from England and France to Canada and India.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Homosexuality

                                                                                                                                                                                          Crozier 2001 examines homosexuality as a field of struggle over discursive legitimacy between medical and legal practitioners. Complementing prior literary and cultural studies of homosexuality, Cocks 2003 provides empirical context on legal responses to male same-sex practices throughout the 19th century. Cook 2003 concentrates on the fin-de-siècle to study homosexual subcultures and cultural representations of homosexuality in a variety of material. Bristow 2007 serves as a useful introduction to “the new gay history” as it surveys and assesses relevant scholarly work, including Cocks 2003 and Cook 2003. While Cocks and Cook are keen to challenge a critical focus on sensational events such as the Oscar Wilde trials, this scandal continues to inspire new research. Dalton 2005 explores the lasting impact of the criminalization of Wilde’s homosexuality on contemporary cultural memory. Indebted to the critical movement of Law and Literature, Kaplan 2004 examines the convergence of the literary, the sexual, and social class in the Wilde trials, while Wan 2011 reads the trial transcripts as an expression of Wilde’s aesthetic position.

                                                                                                                                                                                          • Bristow, Joseph. “Remapping the Sites of Modern Gay History: Legal Reform, Medico-Legal Thought, Homosexual Scandal, Erotic Geography.” Journal of British Studies 46.1 (January 2007): 116–142.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1086/508401Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Usefully digests a number of recent studies on gay historiography, including Cocks 2003 and Cook 2003. Helpful for those wishing to gain an overview of the field before delving into specific works in more detail.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Cocks, H. G. Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century. London: I. B. Tauris, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Analyzes the policing and prosecution of sodomy through a range of empirical data, with particular attention to the first half of the century. Includes references to newspaper representations and literary men such as Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde. Recommended for the advanced undergraduate level and onwards.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Cook, Matt. London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885–1914. Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture 39. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Traces constructions of male homosexuality in different types of writing, including law, newspapers, and sexology. Challenges prior studies’ assumption of a “renewed repression and a recession in the urban homosexual subculture” (p. 6) following the Wilde trials. Includes statistics as well as references to literary figures such as Symonds and Wilde.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Crozier, Ivan. “The Medical Construction of Homosexuality and Its Relation to the Law in Nineteenth-Century England.” Medical History 45.1 (2001): 61–82.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Examines the medicalization of discourses about same-sex activity, from forensic medical discourses to other forms of discourses about homosexuality in connection with the law in venereology, behavioral psychology, and sex psychology.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Dalton, Derek. “The Haunting of Gay Subjectivity: The Cases of Oscar Wilde and John Marsden.” Law Text Culture 10.1 (2005).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    Explores the “nexus of gay men and criminality” through a comparative analysis of the Wilde trials and the contemporary Australian defamation trial of John Marsden. Explores images and discourses related to both trials.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kaplan, Morris B. “Literature in the Dock: The Trials of Oscar Wilde.” Journal of Law and Society 31.1 (2004): 113–130.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6478.2004.00281.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Draws on expanded trial records and sees the trials “as beginning the culture wars that marked the 20th century and have not concluded yet.” Examines public responses to Wilde’s art, trial, and verdict, and the use of Wilde’s writings, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray, in court.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Wan, Marco. “A Matter of Style: On Reading the Oscar Wilde Trials as Literature.” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 31.4 (2011): 709–726.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/ojls/gqr022Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Informed by critical approaches in Law and Literature, Wan reads the trial transcripts stylistically, as a reflection of Wilde’s artistic vision.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Prostitution

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Walkowitz 1980 still serves as a standard introduction to the criminalization of female prostitutes from a historical perspective. Nead 1988 analyzes the cultural and visual representations of sexual deviancy, while Nord 1995 is of interest to those wishing to study literary representations of prostitutes. In Walkowitz 1992, the author extends her earlier work with a focus on the “Jack the Ripper” murders.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Nead, Lynda. Myths of Sexuality: Representations of Women in Victorian Britain. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Working within a Foucauldian framework, Nead sets out to analyze visual art’s role in “the categorization of normal and deviant forms of female sexuality” (p. 2), especially adultery and prostitution. Contains case studies of Egg’s fallen woman trilogy Past and Present, and Solomon’s representation of a dead prostitute in Drowned! Drowned!

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Nord, Deborah Epstein. Walking the Victorian Streets: Women, Representation, and the City. Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Explores representations of prostitutes and “fallen women” from the perspective of middle-class women writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell. Also includes chapters on women and illicit sexuality in some of Dickens’s novels and journalism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Walkowitz, Judith R. Prostitution and Victorian Society: Women, Class, and the State. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511583605Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Classic study of prostitution in the Victorian era. Offers extensive background knowledge on the criminalization and social stigmatization of prostitutes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Walkowitz, Judith R. City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London. London: Virago, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Of interest to cultural historians and literary scholars alike. Reads W. T. Stead’s exposé of child prostitution, “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon,” and media reports of the Whitechapel murders as “catalyzing events” for the sexual politics of late-19th-century London.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sexual Abuse and Violence

                                                                                                                                                                                                                D’Cruze 1998 outlines sexual and physical violence against women from a feminist historical viewpoint, with some assessment of the significance of narrative in this context. Jackson 2000 details child sexual abuse cases in the context of the symbolic value of the child. Warwick and Willis 2007 offers critiques of representations of “Jack the Ripper” in literature and media.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • D’Cruze, Shani. Crimes of Outrage: Sex, Violence and Victorian Working Women. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Feminist history of sexual and physical violence against women in the context of “key spatial and cultural locations of women’s lives” (p. 3). Although not written by a literary scholar, the book demonstrates awareness of “narrative” and encompasses brief discussions of melodrama, popular ballads, and journalism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Jackson, Louise A. Child Sexual Abuse in Victorian England. London: Routledge, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Examines criminal cases pertaining to child sexual abuse and how they were interlinked with “the symbolic delineation of the child” (p. 3), but does not use literary sources.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Warwick, Alexandra, and Martin Willis, eds. Jack the Ripper: Media, Culture, History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Collection exploring the multiform impact of the Ripper murders on the cultural imagination from the late 19th century to the present day. Analyzes “the discourses and representations of the murders and the murderer” in numerous genres, including newspapers and fiction (p. 3).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Poisoning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Burney 2006 studies the role of poisoning in the wider Victorian imagination against transformations in legal practice and the emergence of toxicology. Hartman 1977 offers case studies on female middle-class poisoners. Watson 2004 provides a readable overview of poisoning, its effects, and investigation. Whorton 2010 surveys the widespread use of arsenic in a scholarly yet accessible fashion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Burney, Ian. Poison, Detection, and the Victorian Imagination. Encounters. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Taking the famous trial of William Palmer as a starting point, historian of medicine Burney explores shifts in medico-legal responses to poisoning and the formation of toxicology within a wider cultural-historical context, including contributions to the debate by social and literary commentators such as Wilkie Collins.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Hartman, Mary S. Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes. London: Robson, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This study of middle-class women in France and England accused of murder includes several chapters on women charged with poisoning their husbands.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Watson, Katherine. Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and Their Victims. London and New York: Hambledon and London, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Spanning the period from the mid-18th century to the First World War, this well-researched yet accessible study surveys the motives of poisoners, effects on victims, and the methods of those investigating the crimes. Serves as an easy-to-read introduction to the topic.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Whorton, James C. The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work, and Play. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Medical historian Whorton surveys practices of arsenic use in the 19th century, claiming that most poisonings derived from accidental consumption rather than intentional murder or suicide. Scholarly, yet highly accessible in style. Contains occasional references to literary authors and texts, but mostly works with historical-contextual sources.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Crime in the Imperial Context

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In Victorian writing by reformers and literary authors alike, the health of the nation and empire often became interlinked with notions of crime as a socially destabilizing force, although some contemporaneous commentators also tried to challenge depictions that conflated the criminal with the foreign “other.” Thomas 1994 and Trelease 2004 both focus on fingerprinting as a technology for colonial control that was taken up and bolstered by Victorian writers of crime fiction. Similarly, McBratney 2005 analyzes the textual strategies in Conan Doyle’s detective fiction as devices for colonial control. Schwan 2010 turns to writing on prison reform in India and the role of the colonial imagination in legitimizing female reformers’ interventions. Mukherjee 2003 is the most comprehensive study on crime in the imperial context and is useful for those also interested in thinking about textual resistance to the criminalization of the foreign.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • McBratney, John. “Racial and Criminal Types: Indian Ethnography and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four.” Victorian Literature and Culture 33.1 (2005): 149–167.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Drawing on Foucault 1977 (cited under Historical Context) and Miller 1988 (cited under Literature and Culture), the article argues that Conan Doyle’s text builds on and reinforces scientific taxonomies of the racial and criminal “other.” McBratney sees the literary author’s canon of detective fiction as “deeply conservative fantasies of disciplinary control” (p. 163).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Mukherjee, Upamanyu Pablo. Crime and Empire: The Colony in Nineteenth-Century Fictions of Crime. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Examines the role of the “language of policing, of law, of crime and punishment” in Britain’s relationship with India (p. 2). Committed to uncovering the rhetorical tactics underpinning imperialism, Mukherjee also insists on “possibilities of dissent” (2) and critical interrogations of (colonial) authority in textual representations of crime, from Newgate fiction to sensation fiction.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Schwan, Anne. “‘Dreadful Beyond Description’: Mary Carpenter’s Prison Reform Writings and Female Convicts in Britain and India.” European Journal of English Studies 14.2 (2010): 107–120.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/13825577.2010.481450Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Argues that Carpenter extended the project of earlier female reformers by drawing on imperial discourses, using the penal sphere as “a platform for empowerment” for middle-class women (p. 116). Analyzes Carpenter’s language, with its analogies between female convicts in Britain and in India, who are all seen as targets of reformist intervention.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Thomas, Ronald R. “The Fingerprint of the Foreigner: Colonizing the Criminal Body in 1890s Detective Fiction and Criminal Anthropology.” ELH 61.3 (Fall 1994): 655–683.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1353/elh.1994.0028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Demonstrates how Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, similar to contemporaneous criminological writings, reconfigured the relationship between individual body and body politic and how detective fiction became “an effective popular agent” (p. 680) in shaping new concepts of the nation. Also discusses Ellis 1890 (cited under Reformist, Journalistic, Medico-Scientific, and Criminological Writing) in some detail.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Trelease, Gita Panjabi. “Time’s Hand: Fingerprints, Empire, and Victorian Narratives of Crime.” In Victorian Crime, Madness and Sensation. Edited by Andrew Maunder and Grace Moore, 195–206. The Nineteenth Century. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Short article that discusses the origins of the technique of fingerprinting in colonial India and the wider context of criminal anthropology, alongside representations of criminal identification in crime fiction. Less ambitious than Thomas’s article, this piece is an accessible introduction to the topic.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Suicide and Blasphemy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Readers with a penchant for less frequently discussed types of crime will be interested in Gates 1988, with its analysis of the “crime” of suicide and its representation in a range of cultural and literary sources. Marsh 1998 is an engaging study dedicated to a similarly slippery category: the crime of blasphemy and related offenses committed by word rather than deed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Gates, Barbara. Victorian Suicide: Mad Crimes and Sad Histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Informative study on a rarely discussed topic. Traces changing attitudes toward the act of self-murder, including the question of whether suicide constitutes a crime, in the context of different sets of knowledge production, from folklore to legal and medical knowledge and literary representations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Marsh, Joss. Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Extensive yet accessible and absorbing study of the conceptually elusive crime of blasphemy (“the speaking of the unspeakable”) and related offenses such as obscenity or sedition. Uncovers an array of obscure archival material but also tackles how the criminalization of language affected now-canonical writers like Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Prisons

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            After literary scholars’ treatment of imprisonment, policing, and surveillance in the symbolic sense, a number of studies turned to representations of actual confinement in the literal sense. Tambling 1998 reads Carlyle 1850 (cited under Primary Texts: Prisons) from a psychoanalytic and gendered perspective, while Grass 2003 turns, more comprehensively, to the role of the prison for Victorian narrative production, with a focus on Dickens. Alber and Lauterbach 2009 offers the widest-ranging volume, with contributions on imprisonment in different kinds of Victorian texts. Interesting recent work in the history of reading explores reading habits and literacy in the context of Victorian penal institutions. Crone 2010 considers prison records for wider arguments about literacy among the Victorian working classes, while Crone 2011 focuses on Bible reading on convict ships. Hartley 2011 examines reading practices in Victorian gaols.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Alber, Jan, and Frank Lauterbach, eds. Stones of Law, Bricks of Shame: Narrating Imprisonment in the Victorian Age. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Recent collection focusing on English narratives of imprisonment, including several articles on Charles Dickens and lesser-known popular and reformist texts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Crone, Rosalind. “Reappraising Victorian Literacy Through Prison Records.” Journal of Victorian Culture 15.1 (2010): 3–37.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/13555501003607644Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Analyzes prison records on male and female prisoners between 1840 and 1870 in three English counties to examine prior assumptions about general literacy levels in the laboring population. Contains some useful reflections on methodology and the problems with using prison statistics from the period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Crone, Rosalind. “Attempts to (Re)shape Common Reading Habits: Bible Reading on the Nineteenth-Century Convict Ship.” In A Return to the Common Reader: Print Culture and the Novel, 1850–1900. Edited by Beth Palmer and Adelene Buckland, 103–120. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Surveys official views on religious instruction on convict ships and in the penal colonies, as well as a range of responses to Bible reading by convicts.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Grass, Sean. The Self in the Cell: Narrating the Victorian Prisoner. Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory. New York: Routledge, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Examines the relationship between “the prison and narrative production” (p. 7) in a number of Victorian texts, including several by Dickens. Challenging earlier Foucauldian readings, Grass does not see Victorian novels as an extension of the panoptical principle, but instead establishes an analogy between the novel and Freud’s case histories.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Hartley, Jenny. “Reading in Gaol.” In A Return to the Common Reader: Print Culture and the Novel, 1850–1900. Edited by Beth Palmer and Adelene Buckland, 87–102. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Discusses debates around the role of literacy and appropriate reading material in prison, including changing regulations on the use of Dickens’s novels in penal institutions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Tambling, Jeremy. “Carlyle in Prison: Reading Latter-Day Pamphlets.” Dickens Studies Annual 26 (1998): 311–333.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Article on Carlyle 1850 (cited under Primary Texts: Prisons), a piece on imprisonment, public executions, and philanthropy that also inspired Dickens. Although somewhat confused, the piece is broadly informed by psychoanalytical concepts and gender criticism.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Prison Visiting and Philanthropy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Summers 1995 examines the Quaker Elizabeth Fry’s role in prison reform. Van Drenth and de Haan 1999 investigates Fry’s activism in the context of the emerging middle-class women’s movement. Rogers 2009 explores female prison visiting and its effects at one local gaol.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Rogers, Helen. “The Way to Jerusalem: Reading, Writing and Reform in an Early Victorian Gaol.” Past and Present 205.1 (November 2009): 71–104.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gtp039Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Examines the relationship between the Christian prison visitor Sarah Martin and one male prisoner at Great Yarmouth Borough Gaol. Argues that religious instruction and literacy activities were “structured by negotiation and not just domination” (p. 80). Also relevant to those interested in methodologies for recovering prisoners’ voices.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Summers, Anne. “Elizabeth Fry and Mid-Nineteenth Century Reform.” In The Health of Prisoners: Historical Essays. Edited by Richard Creese, W. F. Bynum, and J. Bearn, 83–101. The Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Situates the Quaker’s prison philanthropy within a wider context of Fry’s social and family networks and considers the importance of religion to Fry’s reformist project.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • van Drenth, Annemieke, and Francisca de Haan. The Rise of Caring Power: Elizabeth Fry and Josephine Butler in Britain and the Netherlands. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Examines the role of women such as prison philanthropist Fry in the historical rise of caring power, “a mode of power that operates through care” (p. 11), and the relationship between caring power and the emerging middle-class women’s movement.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Executions

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Cultural and literary historians have offered interpretations of the meaning of debates around capital punishment for understanding social attitudes in the Victorian period more broadly speaking. Gatrell 1994 is essential reading for those wishing to find out about the practice and representation of capital punishment until 1868, although its main focus is not on literary responses. Schwarzbach 1990 and Thomas 2005 deal with two Victorian writers’ responses to the death penalty more specifically (Dickens and Thackeray, respectively).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Gatrell, V. A. C. The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People, 1770–1868. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Epic cultural history of the practice of and attitudes toward public executions. Draws on a wide range of sources, including popular literature such as execution broadsides.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Schwarzbach, F. S. “‘All the Hideous Apparatus of Death’: Dickens and Executions.” Paper presented at a special session held during the Annual Meeting of the Philological Association of the Carolinas, held March 1987 at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. In Executions and the British Experience from the 17th to the 20th Century: A Collection of Essays. Edited by William B. Thesing, 93–110. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Surveys Dickens’s views on the death penalty.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Thomas, Deborah A. “Thackeray, Capital Punishment, and the Demise of Jos Sedley.” Victorian Literature and Culture 33.1 (2005): 1–20.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Reads the mystery of Joseph Sedley’s murder in Vanity Fair in the context of Thackeray’s visit to Courvoisier’s public execution and contemporaneous debates surrounding the death penalty.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Penal Transportation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The transportation of female convicts in particular and their impact on colonial Australia has featured in a number of critical studies by economic and social historians, such as Oxley 1996 or Damousi 1997, which offer little to scholars interested in literary representation, however. Frost and Maxwell-Stewart 2001 turns its attention to the lost voices of transported convicts, raising interesting questions about methodological problems. Will also be of use to those interested in the life writing of the marginalized.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Damousi, Joy. Depraved and Disorderly: Female Convicts, Sexuality and Gender in Colonial Australia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511470172Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Focus is on anxieties about gender, sexuality, and race in the worlds inhabited by convict women transported to Australia between the 1820s and 1840s, from convict ships to factories in the penal colonies. Complements the nearly contemporaneous work of Oxley 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Frost, Lucy, and Hamish Maxwell-Stewart. Chain Letters: Narrating Convict Lives. Carlton South, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Interdisciplinary collection that aims to recover the lost voices of convicts transported to Australia. Useful on methodology, the articles examine a range of texts and artifacts, including coins and tattoos, as containers of convict stories.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Oxley, Deborah. Convict Maids: The Forced Migration of Women to Australia. Studies in Australian History. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Study by an economic historian aimed at writing transported convict women back into “the grand narrative of colonial growth” (p. 1). Complements the nearly contemporaneous work Damousi 1997, with a stronger focus on empirical data.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Law and Literature

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Although the law and literature movement has a long history in the legal discipline, the study of the relationship between literature and law in literary studies experienced a boom in the 1990s and early 2000s, largely as an effect of New Historicism. Freeman and Lewis 1999 showcases approaches to the interdisciplinary study of law and literature from Shakespeare to contemporary women’s writing, including contributions on Victorian literature. Dolin 1999 establishes the law’s influence on storytelling practices in fiction, while Schramm 2000 is of interest to those specifically interested in legal evidence reform and its supposed effects on realist novels. Grossman 2002 similarly shows how changing juridical paradigms impacted on narrative, and Rodensky 2003 concentrates on the concept of criminal responsibility in literary and legal discourse. Krueger 1994 is particularly insightful for those looking for a gendered perspective.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Dolin, Kieran. Fiction and the Law: Legal Discourse in Victorian and Modernist Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511549342Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Traces connections between law and fiction in canonical Anglophone texts from Walter Scott via Herman Melville to E. M. Forster in order to illuminate how “the canons of legal evidence come to govern the practice of fictional storytelling” (p. 2).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Freeman, Michael, and Andrew D. E. Lewis, eds. Law and Literature. Vol. 2 of Current Legal Issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Extensive volume illustrating the interdisciplinary study of law and literature from different angles and historical periods. Contains several chapters relevant to those working on 19th-century literature and culture and includes references to literary authors such as Dickens, Gaskell, Eliot, and Hardy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Grossman, Jonathan H. The Art of Alibi: English Law Courts and the Novel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Broadly New Historicist study of the relationship between juridical and narrative paradigms in works by Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and others.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Krueger, Christine L. “Witnessing Women: Trial Testimony in Novels by Tonna, Gaskell, and Eliot.” In Representing Women: Law, Literature, and Feminism. Edited by Susan Sage Heinzelman and Zipporah Batshaw Wiseman, 337–355. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Considers how women writers problematized the exclusion of women’s voices from English jurisprudence and from public speech more broadly speaking.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Rodensky, Lisa. The Crime in Mind: Criminal Responsibility and the Victorian Novel. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Investigates views on criminal responsibility and Victorian novelists’ ability to compete with legal commentators in the shaping of public opinion on criminal law. Main authors studied are Charles Dickens and George Eliot.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Schramm, Jan-Melissa. Testimony and Advocacy in Victorian Law, Literature, and Theology. Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture 27. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Like Dolin, Schramm investigates connections between law and literature, with a specific focus on legal evidence reform but a broad evidentiary basis. Of particular interest to literary scholars are her sections on Victorian realist novels, which demonstrate how these texts’ authors seek “to recover those stories which the law ignores as inadmissible or irrelevant” (p. xii).

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