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The Woman Reader 1837–1914$
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Kate Flint

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198121855

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198121855.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 25 January 2022

Sensation Fiction

Sensation Fiction

(p.274) 10 Sensation Fiction
The Woman Reader 1837–1914

Kate Flint

Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with the phenomenon of sensation fiction in the 1860s: fiction which deliberately catered to compulsive forms of consumption, and which the reviewers presented as being devoured by women. The sensation fiction’s frames of reference are drawn from familiar supppositions about woman’s affective susceptibility. Above all, the presence of sexual desire and sexual energy within the fictions was singled out. This disruptive potential was greeted with particular anxiety when it was located in novels written by women, notably Mary Braddon, Rhoda Broughton, and Mrs Henry Wood. Inevitably, it also reflected on the perceived status of those women readers who borrowed and devoured these fictions so hungrily. The novels of Braddon and Broughton in particular are studded with quotations from writers ranging such as William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Geoffrey Chaucer, and John Milton. In sensation fiction, sensitivity to poetry, and the ability to have an apposite quotation spring to one’s lips, is equated with sensitivity to life in general. In many examples of women’s sensation fiction, external proprieties are maintained, enabling their authors’ indignant self-defence against charges of immorality.

Keywords:   sensation fiction, Mary Braddon, Rhoda Broughton, women, women readers, frames of reference, quotations, immorality, sexual desire, sensitivity

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