Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level





Sean Dempsey

Committee Member

Lissette Lopez Szwydky-Davis

Second Committee Member

Susan Marren


Affect in Sensation Fiction, Gender in Victorian Literature, Sensation Fiction


“Feeling Clumsy, Feeling Alien: Gender and Affect in Victorian Sensation Fiction” explores the interactions between the shock of reading sensation fiction and the affective potential of the genre using Sara Ahmed’s definition of the killjoy and the affect alien. The sensation genre, as explained in its name, is potentially useful when thinking about affective ties in the Victorian period. The first chapter, “Tracing Sensations: Finding and Following the Killjoy” explores the affective footwork that readers of sensation fiction are asked to perform in their sympathetic process with the female villains and fallen heroines. Affective tools employed by sensational fiction create an understanding between the reader and the villains that occupied most of sensation fiction. The second chapter, "The Fallen Heroine: Feeling Injustice” discusses a sensational villain that perhaps more easily encourages sympathy: Ellen Wood’s Lady Isabel Vane turned Lady Carlyle in East Lynne. Chapter three, “The Villain: Feeling for the Enemy,” questions the easily defined femme fatale category of sensation novels and argues that Lady Audley’s actions in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret can be attributed to her role as someone that affects the wrong way. Readers cannot entirely sympathize with Lady Audley or Isabel Vane, but they can recognize themselves within the frustrations and extenuating circumstances that create an environment in which the character feels the only course of action is seduction or murder. The affective possibility of Lady Audley and Isabel Vane relies on the proximity of the reader to the character’s situations. To navigate affect is to navigate affective orientation and proximity, and sensation fiction provides the opportunity for disorientation and inappropriate proximity.