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Tracy Kinsella

Start date

Jan 2009

Submission date

Sep 2012

Tracy Kinsella

Tracy Kinsella profile photo


Crime and the Parvenu: a study of transgression in narratives of upward mobility, accompanied by a novel based on this theme


In progress: A dissertation that seeks to establish connections between novels of the parvenu/arriviste-criminal from the time of Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, through to various contemporary fictions that trace the same pattern of social ambition and crime. Drawing upon René Girard’s concept (from Deceit, Desire and the Novel) of “the triangulation of desire” in the novel, and the role of imitation in that concept, the study considers how upward class mobility in fiction seems to require imitation in both a performative and a textual sense. Creative component: a novel of psychological suspense, set in contemporary Perth, based on the motif of a crime committed by one who has risen from low origins to a more secure social position.

Why my research is important

Dissertation component: There have been several studies of the parvenu or upwardly mobile protagonist in fiction, but this study focuses specifically on the connection between parvenu status and the crime that so frequently follows upon this rise. Novel: The proposed novel takes a new and specifically local approach to a well-established literary motif, exploring assumptions about women as characters in suspense fiction and as “antinomian” or transgressive, non-innocent agents in their own plots. Very few parvenu-criminal novels have a woman criminal protagonist (Stendhal’s Lamiel is a notable exception, but is unfinished). The setting in Western Australia allows for background allusion to colonial crimes entailed by the rise of a “parvenu state”.