Incarnations of fatal women, or femmes fatales, recur throughout the works of women writers in the Romantic period. Adriana Craciun demonstrates how portrayals of femmes fatales or fatal women played an important role in the development of Romantic women's poetic identities and informed their exploration of issues surrounding the body, sexuality and politics. Craciun covers a wide range of writers and genres from the 1790s through the 1830s. She discusses the work of well-known figures including Mary Wollstonecraft, as well as lesser-known writers like Anne Bannerman. By examining women writers' fatal women in historical, political and medical contexts, Craciun uncovers a far-ranging debate on sexual difference. She also engages with current research on the history of the body and sexuality, providing an important historical precedent for modern feminist theory's ongoing dilemma regarding the status of 'woman' as a sex.
List of illustrations; Acknowledgments; List of abbreviations; Introduction; 1. The subject of violence: Mary Lamb, femme fatale; 2. Violence against difference: Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Robinson and women's strength; 3. 'The aristocracy of genius': Mary Robinson and Marie Antoinette; 4. Unnatural, unsexed, undead: Charlotte Dacre's gothic bodies; 5. 'In seraph strains, unpitying, to destroy': Anne Bannerman's femmes fatales; 6. 'Life has one vast stern likeness in its gloom': Letitia Landon's philosophy of decomposition; Bibliography; Index.
'It is a strong, thoroughly-researched, ingenious study with many difference insights to offer, and the fact that it provokes as many questions as it answers is a mark of its scope that does not detract from its value.' Romanticism
'… groundbreaking study … an important and provocative book … always illuminating and intelligent and grounded in scholarly research … a significant scholarly achievement … Cracium offers a valuable argument that invites us to extend her readings to other writers and to reconsider how we read and teach Romanticism.' BARS Bulletin & Review
'Craciun's study is a timely and welcome remedy … her historically informed close readings are sharp, convincing, and persuasive, … Fatal Women of Romanticism is an important addition to the literature on Romantic-era women writers … her study has valuable pedagogical implications, especially for graduate-level classes.' Katherine Montwieler, Essays in Criticism
'Craciun's book does a good job of drawing together a variety of writings to illustrate her thesis … As more and more women writers are admitted to the 'canon', and as traditionally canonical male writers and traditional formulations of Romanticism are reviewed in light of this work, a book like Craciun's is timely and welcome … It is a strength of Craciun's book that she has taken the time to investigate this writing and formulate a useful and interesting theory about their significances … its breadth of coverage is impressive, and overall Fatal Women of Romanticism offers a useful corrective to a critical stance that strictly and rigidly allies behaviour with cultural constructions of propriety.' Jacqueline Labbe, University of Warwick