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Unformatted text preview: FRAMED DIGITALCULTUREBOOKS is a collaborative imprint of the University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Library. FRAMED The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin de Siècle ELIZABETH CAROLYN MILLER The University of Michigan Press AND The University of Michigan Library ANN ARBOR Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Carolyn Miller All rights reserved Published in the United States of America by The University of Michigan Press and the University of Michigan Library Manufactured in the United States of America c Printed on acid-free paper 2011 2010 2009 2008 4 3 2 1 No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher. A CIP catalog record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Miller, Elizabeth Carolyn, 1974– Framed : the new woman criminal in British culture at the fin de siècle / Elizabeth Carolyn Miller. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-13: 978-0-472-07044-2 (acid-free paper) ISBN-10: 0-472-07044-4 (acid-free paper) ISBN-13: 978-0-472-05044-4 (pbk. : acid-free paper) ISBN-10: 0-472-05044-3 (pbk. : acid-free paper) 1. Detective and mystery stories, English—History and criticism. 2. English fiction—19th century—History and criticism. 3. Female offenders in literature. 4. Terrorism in literature. 5. Consumption (Economics) in literature. 6. Feminism and literature— Great Britain—History—19th century. 7. Literature and society— Great Britain—History—19th century. 8. Detective and mystery films—Great Britain—History and criticism. 9. Women in popular culture—Great Britain—History—19th century. I. Title. PR878.D4M55 2008 823'.087209—dc22 2008015026 ISBN-13 978-0-472-02446-9 (electronic) ACKNOWLEDGMENTS t is the keenest of pleasures to have the opportunity to thank—with all the authority of print—the many people who have helped me write this book. Framed began as my doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and my ‹rst and foremost thanks go to Susan David Bernstein, Caroline Levine, and Rebecca Walkowitz; they have been the most generous and stalwart of mentors, and their support was only beginning on the day I submitted my dissertation. I would also like to thank Anne McClintock and Kelley Conway, who served on my dissertation committee and offered brilliant advice. At Madison, I owe thanks to more people than I could possibly enumerate, but I am especially grateful to Jacques Lezra and Susanne Wofford, for their inspiration and encouragement; to Bob Baker and Joseph Wiesenfarth, for initiating me into the study of Victorian literature; to David Bordwell, whose ‹lm theory class opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking about visuality; and to Theresa Kelley and Mario Ortiz-Robles. Support from the Department of English helped me complete my dissertation, and Wisconsin’s International Institute provided me with a crucial yearlong fellowship to the University of Warwick, which allowed access to key archival materials in England. Thanks to Jacqueline Labbe for directing my work during my year at Warwick. I wrote most of this book while I was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, and I would like to thank the Public Goods Council, Francis X. Blouin, and the Mellon Foundation for the precious I time this fellowship gave me. I am eternally grateful to John Kucich, Jonathan Freedman, and Adela Pinch for their expert feedback on my book manuscript, and for their much-appreciated encouragement. I would also like to thank Martha Vicinus for her wise and generous guidance, Robert Aguirre for his friendship and advice, and the NineteenthCentury Forum at Michigan. My colleagues at Ohio University offered friendship and support in the ‹nal stretch of this project. Special thanks to Johnnie Wilcox, for helping me format images for the book, and to Josie Bloom‹eld, Andrew Escobedo, George Hartley, Paul Jones, Joseph McLaughlin, Beth Quitsland, Nicole Reynolds, Catherine Taylor, and Jeremy Webster. The National Endowment for the Humanties seminar “The Oscar Wilde Archive,” held at the Clark Library at UCLA, came as an unexpected boon in the summer of 2007. Thanks to Joe Bristow and my fellow seminar participants, who enriched my understanding of Wilde and indulged my passion for Vera. By the time this book is published, I will have begun a new position at the University of California, Davis, and I would like to thank my new colleagues in the English Department for their insights and ideas as I completed the book manuscript. An early version of chapter 2 was published in Victorian Literature and Culture, and some parts of chapter 4 appeared in the Henry James Review. Librarians at a wide range of institutions have offered assistance: thanks especially to the Bodleian Library, the British Film Institute, the British Library, the Colindale Newspaper Library, the Special Collections Library at the University of Michigan, and the Library of Congress. The VICTORIA listserve has provided an online scholarly community and many good leads. I am grateful to everyone at the University of Michigan Press, especially Alison MacKeen for her enthusiastic editorial stewardship, and Marcia LaBrenz. Numerous friends and colleagues have directly or indirectly helped me ‹nish this book. My friends Laura Vroomen, Lucy Frank, Margaret Ann, and Henry Escudero offered hospitality during various underfunded research trips to England, for which I thank them. Among my graduate school friends, I learned a great deal from Thomas Crofts, Christine Devine, Deirdre Egan, Melissa Huggins, Matt Hussey, Mike LeMahieu, Kristin Matthews, Jack Opel, Elizabeth Rivlin, John Tiedemann, Janine Tobeck, and Laura Voracek. Rich Hamerla, Cathy Kelly, and Todd Shepard extended their friendship and camaraderie during my year at the University of Oklahoma, as did Michael Alexander, Kathy Gudis, and Ronald Schleifer. Other dear friends to whom I owe thanks include Meredith Alt, Angie and Scott Berkley, Lawrence Daly, Chris vi ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Frederick, Julie Gardner and Ashley Stockstill, Gretchen Larsen, Laura Larson, Alison O’Byrne, Ji-Hyae Park, Marina Peterson, Jane Poyner, and Jenny Terry. Finally, I come to my family. I owe more than I can say to my parents, sisters, and grandparents: Jim and Phyllis Ghiardi, Cathy Miller, Cristina Miller, Frank Miller and Ellen Powers, Rhea Miller, and Sarah Miller and Jon Konrath. Thanks also to Mary and Rich Merlie, Vickie Simpson, Stephanie Beltz, and the Stratton clan. This book is dedicated to Matthew Stratton, whom I met on the ‹rst day of graduate school, and who has challenged and enriched my thinking ever since. I am deeply grateful for his love and companionship (not to mention his many meticulous readings of the following chapters). Acknowledgments vii CONTENTS List of Illustrations xi Introduction 1 PART ONE DETECTIVE SERIES ONE Private and Public Eyes Sherlock Holmes and the Invisible Woman 25 TWO Beautiful For Ever! Cosmetics, Consumerism, L. T. Meade, and Madame Rachel 70 PART TWO THREE The Limits of the Gaze Class, Gender, and Authority in Early British Cinema PART THREE FOUR FIVE CRIME FILM 103 DYNAMITE NARRATIVE Dynamite, Interrupted Gender in James’s and Conrad’s Novels of Failed Terror 149 “An Invitation to Dynamite” Female Revolutionaries in Late-Victorian Dynamite Narrative 186 Afterword 223 Notes 227 Films Cited 253 Works Cited 255 Index 273 ILLUSTRATIONS Fig. 1. Fig. 2. Fig. 3. Fig. 4. Fig. 5. Fig. 6. Fig. 7. Fig. 8. Fig. 9. Fig. 10. Fig. 11. Fig. 12. Fig. 13. Fig. 14. Fig. 15. Fig. 16. Fig. 17. Fig. 18. Fig. 19. Fig. 20. Fig. 21. From The Countryman and the Cinematograph (1901) From The Countryman and the Cinematograph (1901) From Punch, 19 May 1894, 229 From Punch, 19 May 1894, 231 From Punch, 15 June 1895, 282 From Punch, 8 September 1894, 111 From “Scandal in Bohemia” From “The Six Napoleons” From “The Final Problem” From “Scandal in Bohemia” From “Scandal in Bohemia” From “Scandal in Bohemia” From “Scandal in Bohemia” From “Charles Augustus Milverton” From “Charles Augustus Milverton” From “Charles Augustus Milverton” From “The Blood-Red Cross” From Punch, 27 January 1894, 45 From The Film Censor, 14 August 1912, 3 Cover from The Pictures, 24 August 1912 From The Pictures, 20 July 1912, 14 2 3 8 9 9 10 24 36 37 43 44 46 52 63 65 68 87 90 119 120 127 Fig. 22. Fig. 23. Fig. 24. Fig. 25. Fig. 26. Fig. 27. Fig. 28. Fig. 29. Fig. 30. xii First shot from Women’s Rights (1899) Second shot from Women’s Rights (1899) Third shot from Women’s Rights (1899) Photograph of Emily Davison’s death, captured on ‹lm in The Suffragette Derby of 1913. (Taken from Stanley.) From “Dynamite and Dynamiters” (120) From “Dynamite and Dynamiters” (130) From “Dynamite and Dynamiters” (131) Cover of program from the New York production of Vera; Or, the Nihilist. (Courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.) From page two of the program for the New York production of Vera; Or, the Nihilist (Courtesy of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.) I L L U S T R AT I O N S 135 136 137 141 153 154 155 192 193 INTRODUCTION n 1901, R. W. Paul, one of Britain’s ‹rst ‹lmmakers, released The Countryman and the Cinematograph, a ‹lm that re›exively “explains” cinema just ‹ve years into this new narrative form. It depicts a countryman at the movies, who mistakes cinematic illusion for real-world phenomena: he attempts to dance with a lovely on-screen dancing girl (‹gure 1) and ›ees a ‹lmic train seemingly moving in his direction (‹gure 2). Bewildered by these images, he tears down the ‹lm screen, only to ‹nd the projector and operator behind it.1 Movies that mocked the ignorant or uninitiated ‹lm viewer were common at the turn of the century; they served as elementary primers on cinema spectatorship, disseminating a culture and ethics of audience behavior for a new form of narrative entertainment. The Countryman taught ‹lmgoers that savvy spectatorship is a necessary condition of modern subjectivity, that only a “bumpkin” or “yokel” would be taken in by ‹lm’s illusion, and that sophisticated ‹lm viewers are not distressed by what they see on screen. The message of the ‹lm is that to be a “modern” rather than a “primitive” subject, one must adjust to the shock of modern narrative forms. At the same cultural moment, however, many critics were arguing that shocking ‹ction and ‹lm were not tests of one’s poise, but symptoms of cultural degeneration, part of that “strange disease of modern life” that Matthew Arnold had diagnosed nearly ‹fty years earlier. In 1904, for example, Arnold Smith complained in the Westminster Review about the public fascination with “crime and criminals” in ‹ction: “The I 1 Fig. 1. The Countryman and the Cinematograph (1901) increasing mass of sensational literature which appears daily is a serious symptom of mental debility in the country at large. The cause of the demand for this ‹ction is not far to seek. It lies in the nerve-shattering conditions of modern life; in the ceaseless strain and sorrow which must be escaped from somehow . . . in the jaded state of the mind which craves a stimulus” (190).2 Here, in echo of earlier reactions against sensation ‹ction and penny dreadfuls, shocking stories are a symptom of “modern life,” and modernity itself is a “ceaseless” and destructive juggernaut, not unlike a moving train.3 As The Countryman illustrates, however, popular sensationalism both produced and diffused shock; it sought new ways to affect audiences while simultaneously rewarding audience members who learned not to be moved. Popular sensationalism, as this ‹lm shows, often worked to naturalize change. This book argues that crime narratives of the ‹n de siècle use the shocking ‹gure of the female criminal to naturalize change: the ‹ctional female criminal, a ubiquitous persona in turn-of-the-century crime narrative, was a herald of changing political and social conditions, changing 2 FRAMED Fig. 2. The Countryman and the Cinematograph (1901) gender roles, and changing de‹nitions of “private” and “public.” While the ‹gure of the female criminal has a long and rich literary history, this book considers her unique role in three new crime genres that emerged in the 1880s and 1890s: the detective series, the crime ‹lm, and the “dynamite narrative” (a popular genre focused on political terrorism). Along with the era’s other new, and not so new, symbols of the modern—cinema, dynamite, bombs, violent crime, cosmetics, lurid posters, vivid advertising—these immensely popular crime genres represented “newness” for a culture obsessed with modernity, and they employed the female criminal to embody and explain the shock of modern life. The new crime genres of the ‹n de siècle engendered a character that I call the “New Woman Criminal.” Like the ‹gurative “New Woman” who emerged in 1890s cultural discourse, the New Woman Criminal represents a speci‹cally public form of femininity for a culture that was rede‹ning and redistricting “public” and “private” amid modern social change. The New Woman Criminals populating crime narrative have very little to do with real, historical female criminals of the period. Most Introduction 3 women convicted of crimes at this time were poor and desperate; they did not represent new choices available to women, as New Women did, but often were victims of abuse or of desolate circumstances. Far from representing women’s new public in›uence, as ‹ctional New Woman Criminals did, they tended to commit domestic crimes: the vast majority of Victorian murderesses, for example, killed their own children, husbands, or parents.4 The New Woman Criminal’s distinction from “real” female criminals indicates that she was a ‹gure of fantasy rather than a reproduction of the headlines. She was not a realistic representation of a subject in her society, but an imaginative creation within a wildly expanding popular culture of crime narrative. The disjunction between real and ‹ctional female criminals raises key questions: Why did authors write about New Woman Criminals? Why did audiences enjoy them? Unlike most male criminals of the period, ‹ctional female criminals tend to be attractive, successful, and alluring. Unlike Mr. Hyde or imaginative depictions of Jack the Ripper in the late-Victorian press, ‹ctional female criminals cannot be classi‹ed or labeled within the criminological taxonomy that social scientists of the era had invented. The ‹gure of the female criminal was in many ways a contradictory ‹ctional persona: in a culture increasingly ‹xated on detectives and policing, she seems to represent not the new circumscriptions of modern society, but its new freedoms. In this way, the New Woman Criminal offers insight into the development of both modern crime narrative and the modern women’s movement. Critics such as Rita Felski, Elaine Showalter, and Judith Walkowitz have described the rich history of feminist social reform in Britain between 1880 and 1913; these years were also exceptionally fertile for new representations of criminality. Many of our current narrative sensibilities regarding crime and criminality can be traced to this epoch, which saw the birth of Sherlock Holmes, the invention of crime ‹lm, the ‹rst modern serial killer ( Jack the Ripper), and the ‹rst dynamite campaigns for revolutionary causes like Irish nationalism. In recent years, crime and criminality have been pervasive topics in studies of late-Victorian literature, but these studies have failed to recognize the distinctiveness of the female criminal as a narrative ‹gure, often overlooking her altogether. There is a simple explanation for this omission: female criminals do not suit the dominant critical models and methodologies that have been brought to bear on crime narrative of the period. In the wake of Michel Foucault’s profound impact on literary studies, narrative depictions of criminality have been understood to discipline readers to 4 FRAMED omnipresent surveillance and power extending beyond the modern state apparatus, and to celebrate the containment of the criminal “other.”5 Recent critics have contested this reading of Foucault within Victorian studies, and Lauren Goodlad in particular has argued that Foucault’s later work on governmentality (as in “Omnes et Singulatim”) seriously complicates the use to which Foucault has been put in studies of Victorian literature. My point here is not to elaborate a revised Foucauldian reading of Victorian criminality, but to show how the older conception of the Foucauldian criminal subject has contributed to a critical neglect of the New Woman Criminal. By focusing on female criminals, this book identi‹es a hitherto unnoticed feature of turn-of-the-century crime narrative: ‹ctional female criminals tend to be more successful, more admirable, and altogether less prone to containment and arrest than male criminals. Instead of using female criminals to narrate the dangers of legal disobedience or the shame of feminine debasement, new genres of crime narrative employ these characters to model effective, autonomous agency within dauntingly complex modern social conditions. Much has been written, for example, about criminal anthropology and criminal science’s in›uence on lateVictorian ‹ction. When we come to female criminals, however, this critical model simply doesn’t work. In ‹n de siècle crime narrative, systematic or scienti‹c efforts to explain, predict, or categorize female offenders typically fail, and the female criminal represents that which cannot be accounted for within modern systems of social control. When we consider crime narrative’s characterization of the female criminal, these genres suddenly appear to be posing entirely different questions than we have previously supposed. With the female criminal, some crime stories do tell cautionary tales about the dangers of transgressing social norms, but they also celebrate the pleasure of such transgression. Detective series, crime ‹lms, and dynamite narratives invite readers to admire female criminals because of their ability to evade punishment, often by manipulating beauty, glamour, disguise, cross-dressing, or other visible, imagistic means. These female criminals are remarkably protean characters, employing bodily transformation to resist social controls. Insofar as we can read such characters as supporting a dominant cultural ideology, they promote a consumerist rather than a disciplinary theory of individual identity.6 Careful maintenance of bodily visibility, or managing one’s “public image,” is a vital means of autonomous agency in turn-of-the-century crime genres. By making this point through the female criminal, these Introduction 5 texts imagine the activity of consumption as an avenue for women’s personal freedom amid a seemingly centralized and regulated modern society. Clearly, such a narrative accords with central features of late capitalism, such as the promotion of individualization via consumption, and the promise of self-actualization through commodities; this narrative also reveals, however, a fundamental amorality or lack of ideological ‹xedness at the root of modern social change. By using the ‹gure of the female criminal to reveal the freewheeling power of image and style in a modern, consumerist, and image-centered society, crime genres demonstrate that under such conditions, traditional ideals governing gender, morality, self, and society can no longer operate as expected. Explicitly or implicitly, the crime genres I consider in this study present the New Woman Criminal as capable of thriving amid the confusing and unfamiliar conditions of modern society, which all three genres characterize as fast, dangerous, and image-centric. They do this in part through form. Magazine detective series feature sh...
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