Dr. Rebecca J. Parker Fedewa (2008)
Assistant Professor of English
- B.A., English, Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis.
- M.A., British and American Literature, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis.
- Ph.D., British Literature, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis.
- Victorian Novel
- Law and Literature
- Narrative Theory
- British Literature: Specialization in the Victorian Novel
- Writing: Rhetoric and Composition, Business Writing, Creative Writing, and Senior Thesis
Current Research Project
My research explores the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell (Mary Barton, Ruth, Cranford, North and South, Sylvia's Lovers and Wives and Daughters). I argue that she challenges 19th-century notions of what constitutes reliable, credible and even admissible truth claims. Gaskell reflects the public's – and the legal community's – anxiety regarding truth claims and the evidence that was permitted to be used to ascertain the truth. Gaskell's novels address this anxiety through narrative techniques incorporating different forms of evidence (via direct and indirect testimony, circumstances and appearances, and tangible pieces of evidence) to open a discussion in her readers regarding gender and power as well as truth and authenticity.
By using the decidedly male legal system in the form of courtroom trials and interrogation-like scenarios for her characters in their everyday lives, Gaskell shows her reading "jury" that judgments are too quickly dispensed and verdicts erroneously assumed based on gender bias. In this way, she participates in a tradition in Victorian writing in which authors focused on acquitting the unjustly accused, especially as the voices of lawyers took the place of the testimonies of the accused themselves.
Writers of realist fiction sought to access the type of personal testimony and evidence that was no longer allowed in the courtroom, presenting this inadmissible but authentic narrative evidence to readers. Furthermore, Gaskell's conclusions have implications well beyond law, to theology, politics and narrative ethics, generally.