O'CALLAGHAN, C., 2013. “Smash the social machine”: Neo-Victorianism and postfeminism in Emma Donoghue’s The Sealed Letter. Neo-Victorian Studies, 6(2), pp. 64-88.
This article reads Emma Donoghue’s neo-Victorian novel The Sealed Letter (2008) as a postfeminist text that demonstrates the complex ways in which feminist concerns of the nineteenth century persist in the twenty-first-century present. I argue that Donoghue’s reimagining of the Codrington trial from 1864 offers a reflexive postfeminist critique of the way in which female gender and sexual norms are culturally produced and maintained. In doing so, I propose that The Sealed Letter exemplifies the means through which Victorian ideas of women, gender, and sexuality prevail, while Donoghue’s rewriting of the case draws important parallels with instances of sexism and misogyny in contemporary culture. In reworking the Codrington affair, the novel illustrates long-standing feminist concerns such the sexual double standard and homophobia that are the renewed subject of
postfeminist criticism in the new millennium
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