Review of Fatal Women of Romanticism by Adriana Craciun
The publication of Adriana Craciun's Fatal Women is a welcome event for all those working on British women writers of the early Gothic era. In clearly focused and densely researched chapters on Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Robinson, Mary Lamb, Charlotte Dacre, Anne Bannerman, and Letitia Landon, Craciun develops her thesis about the cultural and literary ambience in which these women were working: 'women's violence in the contexts of larger political, ideological, and even medical debates specific to the Romantic period, to demonstrate that women's inherent nonviolence was often a necessary feature in arguments for "natural," corporeal sexual difference, and that this two-sex system was by no means universally and unquestioningly accepted as unchanging by either women or men' (10). Working almost as a 'third wave' feminist literary critic, Craciun corrects the older generation of feminist literary critics who have analyzed the period through either a gendercomplementary model (mea culpa!) or through a reading of femme fatales as misogynist male fantasies (mea culpa again). Given that Craciun's ambitions are large in this book, she admirably fulfills them. This book is an impressive achievement, a study that provides solid and mature scholarship on these authors, their milieux, their major works, as well as the conflicted ideologies of the female body and mind that pervaded the period.