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Female Authorship as Theft: Female Prometheus Figures in Fingersmith (2002)

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Female Authorship as Theft: Female Prometheus Figures in Fingersmith (2002)

Cette communication a été filmée dans le cadre du colloque international  "Writers in Neo-Victorian Fiction" organisé par l'équipe anglophone ERIBIA le 11 octobre 2019 à la Maison de la Recherche en Sciences Humaines de l'Université Caen Normandie, sous la responsablilité d'Armelle Parey (ERIBIA, Caen) et Charlotte Wadoux (19-21, Paris 3).

Lilia Louati  is a Ph.D. student in the English department of the University of Toulouse, France, with Professor Catherine Delyfer. Lilia’s research focuses on Victorian and Neo-Victorian studies. Her thesis is entitled “Neo-Characterisation of the Victorian Female Protagonist in Contemporary Fiction”.


Marie-Luise Kohlke’s concept of neo-Victorian “Sexsation” characterizes the project of contemporary novelists such as Sarah Waters to explore sensational representations of the Victorians’ sexual lives. In Fingersmith, a novel influenced by Angela Carter’s The Sadeian Woman, Waters re-imagines patriarchal Victorian pornography rife with masculine stereotypes of male domination and female subjugation embodied in the pornographic archive of the collector Mr Lilly. Subverting the structures of subjugation, however, Waters describes Maud and Susan’s own discovery of lesbian sexuality as they fall in love. A modest fingersmith raised in a thieves’ den, Susan also contributes to awakening Maud’s creativity for the latter eventually emerges as a writer of erotica in her own right. She re-appropriates female sexuality, in order to voice women’s desires as manifestations of a subjective identity. Together, Maud and Susan are able to steal the primordial fire, the creative power, like Prometheus before them. Appropriating “the pen/penis”, Maud investigates female sexuality and emerges as a promoter of a new mode of moral pornography.

The aim of this paper will be to analyse how Waters’s text challenges patriarchal discourse and authorial figures for the sake of creating a new female authorial voice and erotic identity. I shall also study how Fingersmith employs a new form of “metalepsis” in order to negotiate, blur or suppress the boundaries between author figure and character. Indeed, unlike John Fowles in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Waters does not intrude upon the text as an outside character, but is rather resurrected within Maud.



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