Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Charles H. Adams

Committee Member

Karen L. Madison

Second Committee Member

Susan Marren


Language, literature and linguistics, Social sciences, Detective fiction, Female detectives, Genre, History of police, Nineteenth century, Women's rights


Because mystery and detective fiction have been classified as “popular” genres, the complex ideas and ideologies that the authors work with and within reach a wide and varied audience through formulaic and familiar ways. The perceived conservatism of the genre allows authors to present and pursue distinctly anti-conservative views in disguise. For fictional detectives and, especially female detectives, disguise is an effective tool for solving their cases. Often, these detectives will disguise themselves as someone infinitely more conservative than they are in order to gain access to their quarry. Similarly, mystery and detective fiction wear a cloak of conservatism to gain closer access to their audience in order to effect change. While several stories and characters re-establish order and the status quo, several others allow for the possibility for the world to remain transgressive, allowing for women to pursue careers, to control their own destinies, to have authority that they would not normally have in an everyday domestic life. Many of these types of authorities appear at the same time in single works, often creating differing and competing attitudes within and about these stories and characters.