"A Viper and Engine of the Devil": The Violent Woman and Female/Female Violence in Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
My interest in women's violence against other women began as a result of discussions on violent women in a seminar I took with Claudia L. Johnson in 1988. As we discussed the rape of Amy in Defoe's Roxana other students in the class argued that all women had the potential to be dangerously violent if they were not restrained in some way. My own experience dictated quite the opposite, that women are so effectively brainwashed by definitions of passive femininity that many cannot even allow themselves legitimate and appropriate anger in situations which clearly call for it. At the same time, I was also reading the then new and rather startling research on the psychology of female/female battering in the twentieth century which indicated that female battering is, in part, caused by the twentieth century ideology that the appropriate target for personal and social rage is female. As the result of these two interests, I began to explore the connection between violence and definitions of "female" and "femininity" in the eighteenth century novel. I was impressed with the frequency of incidents of female/female violence in the early eighteenth century novel and intrigued by the way in which the violent woman was portrayed in later more feminist novels...