Literary London Reading Group

‘Crossing the Threshold of the Unknown’: Gender and Mobility in Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897)


Please note: this session takes place at the English Department of the University of Tübingen, Germany (Brechtbau, room 010) on Monday 30th January 2017, 4pm-6pm. 

Richard Marsh’s The Beetle takes place in a London under threat from unspeakable and indescribable forces: forces primarily unspeakable because of their indeterminate gender. In introducing this text I will focus on passages in which gender and mobility present their own terrors and challenges. In his 2004 edition of the novel, Julian Wolfreys suggested that Marsh was both interested in writing New Woman fiction and in this novel in particular parodied it. I will argue that neither of these readings are quite accurate: rather, the narration of the passages by Marjorie Lindon and her movement through the novel is mirrored in the horror of the beetle itself, both inherently demonstrating fear of parity of the sexes.


The Beetle (1897) edited by Julian Wolfreys (Broadview, 2004) – with focus on chapters 1, 2, 5, 12, 25-31, 41, 42

Extract from 1895 article ‘Should Man be Woman’s God?’ by Florence Warden et al, The Idler: An Illustrated Magazine, September 1895 (8:44) pp. 187-190.

Excerpt from Appendix B, Julian Wolfreys’s 2004 edition of The Beetle: Ouida and Sarah Grand on the New Woman (pp. 330-333 in Wolfreys).

You can download the reading through our dropbox, via this link.

Our speaker:

Dr Eliza Cubitt was awarded her PhD from UCL in 2016. She is the Early Career Representative of the Literary London Society, and organises the Literary London Reading Group at Senate House. She has published work on Arthur Morrison, and will be contributing a chapter entitled: ‘The Problem of Leisure/What to do for Pleasure’: Women and Leisure time in Margaret Harkness’s slum stories’ to the forthcoming book Authorship and Activism: Margaret Harkness and Writing Social Engagement, 1880-1921, which will be published by Manchester University Press in the autumn of 2017.


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This entry was posted on January 17, 2017 by .
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