Brief sensations : a critical study of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's short fiction

Hatter, Janine Elizabeth

December 2012

Thesis or dissertation

© 2012 Janine Elizabeth Hatter. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

In recent decades, there has been an upsurge in critical attention on the life and oeuvre of Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Most of the critical output, however, relates to Braddon’s sensation novels Lady Audley’s Secret (1861) and Aurora Floyd (1862) (with a minority on her domestic novels and plays), and focuses on Braddon’s representation of a woman’s position in nineteenth-century society. This thesis is therefore the first extended piece to explore her short fiction – which includes short stories, edited collections and novellas – in detail and so contributes significantly to our understanding of Braddon’s life and oeuvre. The thesis begins with an exploration of Braddon’s multiple selves and how she (re)constructs her image throughout her life, and proceeds by an examination of short fiction’s critical position in both contemporary and modern discourse. Following this each chapter is dedicated to a separate subgenre of her short fiction – that of theatrical, supernatural, crime, domestic and children’s literature – and how each of these literary subgenres is another constructed performance, like her ‘multiple selves’. All of these chapters position Braddon and her writing within her contemporary Victorian context, whilst also examining how her contributions developed each of the subgenres considered. This is achieved by a comparison of Braddon’s short fiction with that of other authors of the period, thus our understanding of how Braddon impacted on the larger literary marketplace and influenced other writers will be examined. Furthermore, her short stories will be positioned in relation to her oeuvre as a whole, demonstrating that she did not consider the short story as inferior to the novel, which illuminates our knowledge of the hitherto marginalised genre of the Victorian short story.

Department of English, The University of Hull
Sanders, Valerie, 1956-
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