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Title: Defoe’s criminal minds : a study of female cognitive processing in 18th century criminal fiction
Authors: Diyanah Mohamad Yunos
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities::Literature::English
Issue Date: 2013
Abstract: In the opening passage to An Appeal to Honour and Justice, Though It Be of His Worst Enemies (1715), Daniel Defoe says, “I hear much of people’s calling out to punish the guilty, but few are concerned to clear the innocent” (Location 12). Acquainted with the walls of Newgate prison, Defoe was no stranger to the House of Commons and the working system of the Old Bailey, London’s infamous central criminal court. Having written An Appeal to Honour and Justice, it is no surprise, then, that Defoe began writing criminal autobiographies and, ultimately, popular realist novels like Robinson Crusoe (1719). In the midst of the crime wave that plagued the streets of London in the 18th century, Defoe, who has been labeled “the first key figure in the rise of the novel” (Watt 80), wrote a seemingly authentic report of the human experience, employing the same techniques he uses in his realist novels to construct his criminal autobiographies. As Maximillian E. Novak observes, “his fictions appeared concurrently with the sudden surge in crimes of all sorts during the period spanning 1715-­‐1725” (“Appearances of Truth” 31). This essay examines Defoe’s struggle to best represent a “realistic” female experience in his crime novels Moll Flanders and Roxana in, I suggest, an attempt to clear the misconceptions held by society about criminality, especially female criminals. This is despite the fact that his gendered representations of criminal activity are complicated by the unconventional characterization of his female protagonists, as well as the contrast between his female criminals and their male counterparts. Through the use of realism in his writing of criminal autobiographies, Defoe depicts a different conception of crime and female criminality, setting him apart from his contemporaries.
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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