The Law and the Lady between Emancipation and Reversion to Order

  • Lucia Claudia Fiorella University of Florence
Keywords: Detective novel, Melodrama, Wilkie Collins, Marriage, Emancipation of women, Victorian Age


As it often happens in literature, the staging of a miscarriage of justice (or allegedly so) gives occasion to criticize individual provisions of the law, and betrays a general underlying mistrust towards it, as well as an unavowed competition for discoursive authority. Fiorella’s article is a case study of The Law and the Lady (1874) by Wilkie Collins, an ambiguous detective novel which embarks on the exposure of the so-called ‘Scotch verdict’, and more importantly, of the socio-cultural law of the gender-based separation of roles, only to relapse on a seemingly traditional ending (which is expression of traditional mores), ultimately rejecting its ideological premise. Fiorella’s argument is that not only the closure but the whole of Collins’s literary project is shaped by an unresolved ambivalence of outlook, which is most evident in the attempt of a compromise between the conflicting codes of the melodrama and the detective novel. 


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Author Biography

Lucia Claudia Fiorella, University of Florence

Lucia Claudia Fiorella has earned a doctorate in Anglo-American Literature from the University of Florence (Italy) where she has also taught English Literature as a fixed-term lecturer. She has published the first Italian full-length study on J.M. Coetzee (Figure del Male nella narrativa di J.M. Coetzee, ETS, 2006) and edited a few classics of Anglo-American literature (Dickens, Hawthorne, Conrad). As a comparatist, she has contributed eight substantial entries to the Dizionario dei Temi Letterari (UTET, 2007), and has worked extensively on a number of issues regarding auto/biographism, such as the semantics of the use of the present tense, the epistemology of secret in confessional writings, the influence of Post-Structuralism on the theory of autobiography. Other interests lie in the critique of religious enthusiasm in the age of Enlightenment, literary representations of madness, and the relation between fictional and documentary accounts of polar expeditions at the turn of the 20th century. In the last few years she has also worked on contemporary visual and performative arts, especially when intersecting with literature.


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How to Cite
Fiorella, L. (2012). The Law and the Lady between Emancipation and Reversion to Order. Between, 2(3).
Literature and Human Rights