Fallen angels : female wrongdoing in Victorian novels

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Barnhill, Gretchen H.
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Arts and Science, 2005
In the Victorian novel, gender-based social norms dictated appropriate behaviour. Female wrongdoing was not only judged according to the law, but also according to the idealized conception of womanhood. It was this implicit cultural measure, and how far the woman contravened the feminine norms of society, that defined her criminal act rather than the act itself or the injury her act inflicted. When a woman deviated from the Victorian construction of the ideal woman, she was stigmatized and labelled. The fallen woman was viewed as a moral menance, a contagion. Foreign women who committed crimes were judged for their 'lack of Englishness.' Insanity evolved into not only a medical explanation for bizarre behaviour, but also a legal explanation for criminal behaviour. Finally, the habitual woman criminal and the infanticidal mother were seen as unnatural. Regardless of the crime committed, female criminals were ostracized and removed from 'respectable' English society.
vii, 163 leaves ; 29 cm.
English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism , Feminism and literature -- History -- 19th century , Dissertations, Academic , Sex role in literature , Moral conditions in literature , Women in literature -- Great Britain -- History -- 19th century