Flint, 1993 Notes

Flint, Kate. "Sensation Fiction." The Woman Reader, 1837-1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. 274-293.

Collins introducing sensation fiction, as compulsive reading, and mainly consumed by women; anxiety over such fiction especially due to "the presence of sexual desire and sexual energy," particularly when these were written by women (274).

Critic in Temple Bar, complains of mysteries and horrors in the home, in the cradle, etc. Cf. Robert Audley's statement, cited (276). Suggested what secrets lie behind the respectable domestic front (276-7). Anxiety especially over modernity of stories, showing Lady Audley familiar with telegrams and railway timetables (277); and over blurring of class distinctions (278).

Defence of sensation fiction, showing women needing to be "shrewd, self-reliant, and strong; and we do all we can in our literature to render them helpless, imbecile, and idiotic" (MacCarthy, cited 280).

Sensation for real: since 1857 reports in newspapers allowed, on divorces, bigamy, etc. (280).

Melodrama as working to prove the existence of a moral universe (281). Cf. fate of Lady Audley, ending in insane asylum: a moral retribution working from within her own psychology (281).

Cultural references to classics in Braddon, et al. (282); to painting, as in Pre-Raphaelite image of Lady Audley (283). Knowledge of poetry, ability to quote, sign of culture (284).

Aurora Floyd full of literary quotations, beyond the likely range of the young woman reader (286).

Implicit claim that sensation novel more true to the actual world (287). Literary references may not always point in predicted directions (287).

Reading -- French novels; and role of reading in Braddon's Doctor's Wife (288) -- woman looks for excitement missing in her own life (289).

Miller on sensation fiction, as appealing to the hysterical, widening gap between feelings and reason (291).

But proposed that sensation fiction invites reader to actively construct meaning, rather than wait for its revelation. In Lady Audley, is madness sufficient explanation, or is it rational self-interest? (292). Ideological contradiction: social assumptions that determine plot, vs. sympathy for transgressive heroine (293). "The reader is habitually acknowledged as possessing a wider, more subtle interpretive system than that granted to the heroine." (293). Reader given more credit than "the dangerously uncritical mindlessness which so many critics chose to present as being induced by the opiate of sensation fiction" (293).

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Document prepared November 22nd 2006