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Vol 21 No 9 Sept/Oct 2016

Book of the Month

Cover of Goode on Commercial Law

Goode on Commercial Law

Edited by: Ewan McKendrick
Price: £170.00

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The Private Rod

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Marlene TrompAssistant Professor of English, Denison University, USA

ISBN13: 9780813919492
ISBN: 0813919495
Published: July 2002
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Format: Hardback
Price: £45.95

Sensation novels, a genre characterized by scandalous narratives, and emotionally and socially provocative dialogue and plots, had their heyday in England in the 1860s and 1870s, in the midst of growing concern about codes of behaviour in marriage. Largely excluded from the academic canon of the late 20th century, sensation novels had an impact on Victorian culture that we have only recently begun to evaluate.;Exploring the central metaphor of marital violence in these novels, Marlene Tromp uncovers the relationship between the representations of such violence in fiction and in the law. Her investigation demonstates that sensational constructions of gender, marriage, ""brutal"" relationships and even murder were gradually incorporated into legal debates and realist fiction as the Victorian understanding of what was ""real"" changed. Sensation fiction's reconfiguration of literary and social norms, evident in works by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon, is also explicitly evoked in the ""realist"" representations of domestic violence in novels by Margaret Oliphant and George Eliot.;Despite the apparent gulf between fiction and the law, Tromp explores these texts as mutually constitutive forms through which a major shift in the understanding of domesticity took place. The Victorians responded to marital violence by debating its terms in both Parliament and the circulating libraries, incorporating the language of each realm into the other. By the end of the century, this cross-pollinating conversation threatened the tenuous legal and social fiction of peace and safety in the middle-class home, and new readings of the relationship between domesticity and violence emerged.

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