Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Andrea Kaston-Tange, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Laura George, PhD


This thesis seeks to identify patterns of villainy in late nineteenth-century detective fiction in order to examine middle class conceptions of criminality and the way those models reflect the values of Victorian society. Through a study of more than sixty pieces of short detective fiction, this study identifies and focuses on six primary categories: the visual depiction of the criminal, the criminal class, the jewelry heist, the colonial subject, the violent female offender, and the domestic villain. The creation of each criminal category and the reinforcement of that “type” in popular literature functions to establish order and to support beliefs crucial to Victorian middle class identity and authority. Yet as each story attempts to validate and reproduce this identity, each criminal simultaneously expresses anxiety about defects in that culture and about a denial of responsibility in growing social problems and Imperial practices.