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'The Remorseless Fangs of the Law': The Newgate Novel, 1722-2012

The Newgate novel is a fascinating sub-genre of crime fiction which emerged in the 1830s as a response to contemporary issues within the social, legal and penal systems of Victorian London. This thesis is split into four distinct Parts which, using both critical research and original interventions, summarise developments in the Newgate novel from 1722-2012. The introductory section provides a foundation to this thesis by looking at the most significant contributors to the rise of the Newgate novel: genre, historical context, and the Newgate Calendar. The influences of Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding and William Godwin’s works are then analysed, as are their similarities to the Newgate school. Consequently, this thesis analyses whether or not they may be termed Newgate novels in their own right. The literature of the 1830s forms the core of my thesis, with the focus on works by the most popular Newgate novelists: Edward Bulwer-Lytton and William Ainsworth. Using examples from these authors this thesis establishes a comprehensive definition of what a Newgate novel is — focusing on the uses of sympathy, sensation and social protest — before moving on to look at William Thackeray’s anti-Newgate novel, Catherine. The thesis finishes by redefining the boundaries of the Newgate novel. Using Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist as a springboard, the thesis looks at the twenty-first-century works of Bernard Cornwell and Deborah Challinor to further stretch the definition of a Newgate novel; also suggesting that a sub-genre of the Newgate novel exists in the form of the transportation novel.
Type of thesis
Schumacher, L. J. (2013). ‘The Remorseless Fangs of the Law’: The Newgate Novel, 1722-2012 (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/8653
University of Waikato
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