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Married Women, Law, and the Novel, 1836-1885: Testimonial and Circumstantial Evidence in the Victorian Novel's Debate for Marriage Law Reform

Bolin, Marissa (2018) Married Women, Law, and the Novel, 1836-1885: Testimonial and Circumstantial Evidence in the Victorian Novel's Debate for Marriage Law Reform. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Married Women, Law, and the Novel, 1836-1885- Testimonial and Circumstantial Evidence in the Victorian Novel's Debate for Marriage Law Reform .pdf - Examined Thesis (PDF)
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Abstract

This thesis explores the relationship between law and literature in the nineteenth-century debates for married women's legal rights from 1836 to 1885. Prior to the 1882 Married Women's Property Act, married women were barred from speaking in legal trials against their husbands due to their non-existence in the eyes of the law. From the 1839 Custody of Infants Act that first recognised the rights of married women to the 1882 Married Women's Property Act that ultimately gave them the right to testify in court, the development of the novel form can be seen as a reflection of ongoing political debates and the role that written testimonial and circumstantial evidence had during this period. The nineteenth century saw an explosion of legislation in support of married women, from the 1839 Custody Act and the 1857 Matrimonial Causes and Divorce Act to the 1870 and 1882 Married Women's Property Acts. Figurehead trials such as "Norton v. Melbourne" (1836), "Robinson v. Robinson & Lane" (1859), "Thelwall v. Yelverton" (1861), "Dalrymple v. Dalrymple" (1811), and "Rex v. Palmer" (1869) illustrate the role that married women's writing had in presenting the narrative of married women's legal oppression under unjust marriage laws. The novels examined in this thesis all present married women's agency and legal representation through the form of written evidence. From Anne Brontë's "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" (1848), Caroline Norton's "Stuart of Dunleath" (1851), Mary Elizabeth Braddon's "Lady Audley's Secret" (1862) and "Aurora Floyd" (1863), Wilkie Collins' "Man and Wife" (1870), and George Meredith's "Diana of the Crossways" (1885), this study explores nineteenth-century novels' representations of the growing debates for married women's legal rights and the role that written evidence had in allowing women to speak out against the injustices of marriage laws.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Dr. Marissa Bolin
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2019 13:27
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2019 13:27
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22738

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