Married Women, Law, and the Novel, 1838-1882: Representations of Bigamy, Property Law, Ceremonial Law, Divorce and Separation in the Victorian Novel
Dr Emma Major
I am in the third year of my PhD. I received an MA in Romantic and Sentimental Literature (1780-1830) from York and completed my undergraduate degree in English Literature and French from Hollins University (USA). My current research examines the use of women's physical writing, such as letters, marriage certificates, and diaries within Victorian novels as a way of providing women's testimonial and circumstantial evidence in the debate for marriage legal reform. I analyse novels by Emily Brontë, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Caroline Norton, George Meredith, Wilkie Collins, and Ellen Wood in correlation with contemporary legal trials and parliamentary debates surrounding custody law, divorce and separation rights, ceremonial law, and property law. By revealing the prominence of such novels between 1838 and 1882, I argue that the subgenre of 'legal novel' can be seen as a contributing factor to the growing discussions of married women's necessary legal rights.