The new woman, femininity and modernity in Margery Allingham's detective novels of the 1930s /
Bott, Carol Barbara.
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This thesis examines Death of a Ghost (1934), Flowers for the Judge (1935), Dancers in Mourning (1937), and The Fashion in Shrouds (1938), a group of detective novels by Margery Allingham that are differentiated from her other work by their generic hybridity. The thesis argues that the hybrid nature of this group of Campion novels enabled a highly skilled and insightful writer such as Allingham to negotiate the contradictory notions about the place of women that characterized the 1930s, and that in dOing so, she revealed the potential of one of the most popular and accessible genres, the detective novel of manners, to engage its readers in a serious cultural dialogue. The thesis also suggests that there is a connection between Allingham's exploration of modernity and femininity within these four novels and her personal circumstances. This argument is predicated upon the assumption that during the interwar period in England several social and cultural attitudes converged to challenge long-held beliefs about gender roles and class structure; that the real impact of this convergence was felt during the 1930s by the generation that had come of age in the previous decade-Margery Allingham's generation; and that that generation's ambivalence and confusion were reflected in the popular fiction of the decade. These attitudes were those of twentieth-century modernity--contradiction, discontinuity, fragmentation, contingency-and in the context of this study they are incorporated in a literary hybrid. Allingham uses this combination of the classical detective story and the novel of manners to examine the notion of femininity by juxtaposing the narrative of a longstanding patriarchal and hierarchical culture, embodied in the image of the Angel in the House, with that of the relatively recent rights and freedoms represented by the New Woman of the late nineteenth-century. Pierre Bourdieu's theory of social difference forms the theoretical foundation of the thesis's argument that through these conflicting narratives, as well as through the lives of her female characters, Allingham questioned the Hsocial myth" of the time, a prevailing view that, since the First World War, attitudes toward the appropriate role and sphere of women had changed.