kristen saxton.jpg

Professor of English, Mills College





Fatal Women: Women and Murder in 18th-century England

Murderesses drag their bloody skirts spectacularly though the 18th-century literary and cultural landscape. Then as now, actual female homicide was rare, but as one 18th-century pundit aptly commented: “[T]is certain, [that] a female Offender always excites our curiosity more than a male.” As 18th-century writers knew full well, the story of the murderess is one greatly worth the telling. Murderesses were the feverish subjects of London tabloids, conduct books, popular songs, public sermons, and legal pundits; their sensational cases scandalized and enthralled a nation, and the writings about and around them reveal not only the genealogy of our own fascination with true crime, but the particular stakes that still govern our own society’s legal and aesthetic demarcations of femininity.


Kirsten T. Saxton is an award winning teacher and scholar.  Her research interests are on 18th century fiction, the history of the novel, gender and sexuality, and women and violence.  Her most recent book is "Deadly Plots: Narratives of Women and Murder in England, 1680-1760." She has published on early English women writers, 18th-century pornography, and pulp fiction. Her current book project explores little known women's detective fiction of the 19th and early 20th centuries. She is also working on a digital project on Oakland,  where she grew up, and of course, a mystery novel.

8:00 PM @ Maggie McGarry's