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The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin de Siècle

Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

By introducing us to the New Woman Criminal, Framed offers a profoundly different view of the fin de siècle British crime narrative


Framed uses fin de siècle British crime narrative to pose a highly interesting question: why do female criminal characters tend to be alluring and appealing while fictional male criminals of the era are unsympathetic or even grotesque?

In this elegantly argued study, Elizabeth Carolyn Miller addresses this question, examining popular literary and cinematic culture from roughly 1880 to 1914 to shed light on an otherwise overlooked social and cultural type: the conspicuously glamorous New Woman criminal. In so doing, she breaks with the many Foucauldian studies of crime to emphasize the genuinely subversive aspects of these popular female figures. Drawing on a rich body of archival material, Miller argues that the New Woman Criminal exploited iconic elements of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century commodity culture, including cosmetics and clothing, to fashion an illicit identity that enabled her to subvert legal authority in both the public and the private spheres.

"This is a truly extraordinary argument, one that will forever alter our view of turn-of-the-century literary culture, and Miller has demonstrated it with an enrapturing series of readings of fictional and filmic criminal figures. In the process, she has filled a gap between feminist studies of the New Woman of the 1890s and more gender-neutral studies of early twentieth-century literary and social change. Her book offers an extraordinarily important new way to think about the changing shape of political culture at the turn of the century."
—John Kucich, Professor of English, Rutgers University

"Given the intellectual adventurousness of these chapters, the rich material that the author has brought to bear, and its combination of archival depth and disciplinary range, any reader of this remarkable book will be amply rewarded."
—Jonathan Freedman, Professor of English and American Culture, University of Michigan

Elizabeth Carolyn Miller is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Davis.

Praise / Awards

  • "Elizabeth Carolyn Miller's Framed: The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin-de-Siècle brilliantly uncovers a neglected network of literary and cultural intersections revolving around the figure of the female criminal."
    Studies in English Literature

  • "Framed: The New Woman Criminal in British Culture at the Fin de Siècle is remarkable for its wide-ranging scholarship and the breadth of its author’s thinking. Miller has produced a valuable, highly readable study that will change the way we think about the New Woman and her political and social agency."
    —Grace Moore, 19th Century Literature

  • "Miller steadies her broad gaze through surefooted argumentation and a wonderful use of visuals (photographs, movie stills, periodical illustrations) that connect - but do not circumscribe - the New Woman criminal throughout the different crime genres."
    —Caroline Reitz, Victorian Studies

Look Inside

Copyright © 2008, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted September 2008.

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 296pp.
  • 30 B&W illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05044-4

Add to Cart
  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90047-3

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  • Victorian literature, fin de siecle, silent cinema/early cinema/early film/slent film, women in literature, crime fiction/crime film/detective fiction, consumer culture, visual culture, dynamite/terrorism in literature, female criminal, Arthur Conan Doyle, L.T. Meade, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Olivia and Helen Rossetti