On Good Authority

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McGuckin, Briana
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Degree Name
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Academic Department
Writing, Linguistics, and Creative Process
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<p><em>On Good Authority</em> is a Victorian Gothic novel. It begins with two workhouse adolescents sneaking away to play a game: Marian acts the part of a thief, and Valentine arrests and punishes her. This awakens a sense of desire in Marian, but Valentine is taken away from the workhouse before she can express it.</p> <p>As an adult, Marian is hired to the house of Mr. Bornholdt, who turns aggressive when she rejects his sexual advances. Meanwhile, Mr. Bornholdt’s footman is injured in an accident, and Valentine is hired on as the replacement. Marian’s old friend helps her evade her tormentor even as he presents himself to be a model servant; they make a game of it, in fact, and of course this new game leads them back to their old one. But when Mr. Bornholdt discovers their relationship, the mood in the house turns deadly serious.</p> <p>This novel uses traditional gothic conventions to tell a modern story that is both feminist and sex-positive in its themes. Against the backdrop of Victorian England, it explores BDSM as a healthy, empowering practice, and illuminates the chasm of difference between the consensual and temporary relinquishing of control on the one hand, and the relentless, identity-effacing erosion of abuse on the other.</p>