Texts

CONTEMPORARY FICTION IN FUNNY COSTUMES: CROSS-DRESSING IN THE NOVELS OF SARAH WATERS

Even though earlier works such as John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman or Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea foreshadow current interest in the Victorian period, neo-Victorian fiction has been defined as an independent genre since the 1990s. More than just examples of historical fiction, neo-Victorian novels engage with and (re)interpret the Victorians with a marked self-consciousness. Thus, they perform a double task: in masquerading as Victorian novels, they raise questions about identity and difference between the Victorian period and the present day, shedding light on contemporary issues as well as providing a vehicle for expressing Victorian taboos, or questioning their (our?) values. The recurrent trope of cross-dressing and masquerade can be understood as a reflection of this duality. The aim of this paper, then, is to explore the use of this trope in the novels of Sarah Waters as a metaphor for the status of neo-Victorian fiction in general.