Project Title: From Brighton to Bombay: Mobility and the Nineteenth-Century Female Detective.
School: School of English at the University of St Andrews.
About Maitrayee’s Research
Emerging from the nineteenth-century British genre of railway literature, the fictional female detective was aimed at a new class of regular railway commuters. Spanning the years 1863-1910 and looking closely at 13 primary texts from Britain, Australia, and India (9 English works and 4 Bengali novels/serials), this PhD project is the first study to historicize the female detective subgenre in relation to the technologies and experiences of travel from which it arose. These include the fictive movement of female detectives within Britain and across its colonies, actual journeys of working women, and literary circulation of texts and technologies in the age of steam.
From Brighton to Bombay posits three key questions: What new forms of reading and female selfhood did high-speed rail travel enable? How did transnational transport networks and mediatized cultures influence these narratives? How far did these texts correspond to professional and migratory opportunities for real-life female sleuths of the period? The project is innovative in focusing on both nineteenth-century British texts and narratives from the erstwhile colonies, Australia and India, arguing that the figure of the female detective resonated across the wider British Empire as well as metropolitan British centres. By reading these texts in light of the new possibilities of travel and mobility in this era, the project will position the female detective as a literary figure that crosses and blurs not only geographical boundaries but also those of culture, race, and ethnicity.