Term of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature

Committee Chair

Lindsey N. Chappell

Committee Member 1

Helen Howells

Committee Member 2

Mary Villeponteaux


Sensation fiction allows Victorian women the space to develop apart from the desired angel in the house archetype that is prominent within the realist genre. Pamala Gilbert and Janice Alan are among scholars that outline the social construction of sensation fiction through the middle- and upper-class perceptions as the reader’s reactions elicit the desired sensational effect. However, what is causing these reactions? In order to analyze sensation fiction’s social influence on women more closely, it should be studied alongside its muse, realism to further understand the potential reactions of Victorian audiences. There are clues found within Victorian marriages that uncover a new discourse for women through the comparison of mirroring genres. I have paired two realist novels alongside two sensation novels to study the parallels between each main female protagonist and their marriages; highlighting where genre-defining boundaries blur and female desire runs rampant. Studying genre in this way establishes sensation fiction as an exaggerated version of realism through bigamy plots, hidden identity, and discovery of individualism.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material