Tatum, Karen E. Books

Dr. Karen Elizabeth Tatum is Instructor of English at ECPI College of Technology in Newport News, Virginia. She received her Ph.D. in English with specializations in the English novel and feminist theory from The University of Alabama and her B.A. and M.A. in English and Women’s Studies from the University of Houston.

Explaining the Depiction of Violence Against Women in Victorian Literature: Applying Julia Kristeva’s Theory of Abjection to Dickens, Bronte, and Braddon
2005 0-7734-5989-8
This book examines the causes of the abject response in canonical novels such as Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Aurora Floyd and Lady Audley’s Secret. In Powers of Horror, Julia Kristeva outlines her theory of abjection as a simultaneous fascination and horror stemming from sensorial reminders of the subject’s primal, psychological relation to the mother. The author suggests that these psychological perspectives can potentially result in acts of physical violence, which are called “abject response”. By developing Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection as a model for reading physical acts of violence against women, the book yields specific answers to its overriding questions: Why was a female body so threatening in nineteenth-century fiction? The answer lies in social constructions of women as powers of horror, which the male subject imbibes and which lead to domestic violence if improperly balanced. In addition, the book examines critical interpretations, including those of feminists, which also inadvertently abject the female body. By examining parallel abjections in nineteenth-century novels and twentieth-century criticism, this books reveals the more insidious remnants of Victorian ideology in our present culture, as well as the ways in which these remnants inadvertently perpetuate domestic violence. Thus this book should engage scholars and students of the Victorian period, Women’s Studies, and feminist theory.