Research

Main Research Interests:

  • 19th-Century British Literature (Romantic, Victorian, & Fin de Siecle)
  • Literature by and/or about Women
  • Fairy Tales & Folklore
  • Gender Studies
  • Literary Annuals
  • Sensation Novels
  • The Femme Fatale

My current research focuses on proto-feminist fairy tales by 19th-century British women writers and is the topic of my dissertation, Sowing Seeds of Subversion: Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers’ Subversive Use of Fairy Tales and Folklore. I analyze texts by women authors, including but not limited to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Mary de Morgan, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Egerton. The texts I analyze range from stated fairy tales and literary annual contributions to poems and short stories published in periodicals or collections, and publication dates range from 1833 to 1894. My argument is that there is a tradition of proto-feminist fairy tales written by 19th-century British women that precedes the feminist fairy tales of the 20th century, such as those written by Anne Sexton and Angela Carter. However, unlike 20th-century feminist fairy tales, those that I am studying from the 19th century have been largely ignored by scholars. The word cloud that heads my site is created from an overview of this project.

My interest in the Victorian literary annual is in many ways connected to my dissertation. The literary annual genre is a subject that is only recently of interest to scholars, and even then it is frequently examined from a book-history standpoint; the literary contributions within the annuals are largely dismissed as fluff rather than as literature meriting analysis. In my limited research into the genre, I have found some beautiful gems of fiction, both fairy tale or otherwise, that suggests the literary annual is a neglected source for primary texts. I will be conducting archival research into the genre in conjunction with my dissertation, but my interest in the literary annual is likely to continue long after my dissertation is complete.

I also wanted to note my interest in the figure of the femme fatale. As I prepared for my qualifying exam, this figure became a source of fascination for me. The variety of depictions of the femme fatale throughout the 19th century, not to mention some recent incarnations in contemporary literature such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, raised questions in my mind surrounding this ambiguous female. I passed these questions onto my students in an Introduction to Fiction and Writing course, but answers remains unsatisfactory and the need for further exploration is clear.

As a final note, I am happy to report that I have managed to transfer my own interests (in the fairy tale and the femme fatale in particular) to my students. Lady Audley’s Secret, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, was a surprising favorite in my course on the femme fatale. I thought I would have to struggle to help my students find a Victorian novel of interest, but this decidedly was not the case. Similarly, I have incorporated fairy tales into all my courses, from basic composition to introductory fiction, with success. I believe my interest in more popular forms of fiction (as opposed to canonical forms and texts) allows my students to interact with even 19th-century texts in a way that is unexpected. It seems that sensation novels and fairy tales are more accessible options to engage students in an appreciation of literature from the 19th-century and beyond.

One thought on “Research

  1. Pingback: Reflections on 2014 and Resolutions for 2015 | shandi lynne wagner

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