Representations of Female Villainy in 21st Century French Crime Fiction

My research considers the multi-faceted representations of female villainy in twenty-first century French crime fiction. Crime fiction has long been a vibrant literary institution in France, and much scholarly work has been devoted to this popular and diverse genre, both in the areas of form and content. In recent years, an upsurge in the prominence of female detectives in the genre has brought fresh urgency and interest to studies of crime fiction from the perspective of gender. My thesis places itself at this intersection between gender and crime fiction studies, but shifts focus from female law-enforcement figures to their criminal counterparts, as represented in a selection of five contemporary crime novels from such critically-acclaimed authors as Fred Vargas and Pierre Lemaitre. My research is divided into three interconnected areas of investigation. Firstly, I seek to evaluate the motives ascribed to fictional female villains within the corpus, and secondly, I examine the particular and richly suggestive imagery used to create their ‘villainous’ character. Finally, in a theoretical effort we might term ‘spatial crime studies’, I bring to bear the critical theories of Gaston Bachelard, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu on three significant spaces of villainy in the novels: the domestic space, places of confinement, and the city. This short video will elaborate the structure of my thesis and highlight the important questions that inform my work – amongst them, the notion that if, as Di Collia and Pasolini (2018) suggest, there is ‘two-way traffic’ between crime fiction and our real-life criminal justice systems, fictional female villains have much to tell us about how we understand, judge and punish female perpetrators in reality.

School of Advanced Study
Ciara Gorman (Queen’s University Belfast)
Event date: 
Wednesday, 17 June 2020 - 10:00am