Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Paul Arthur

Committee Member

Art Simon

Committee Member

Janet Cutler


The writer examines the connections between the femme fatale in film noir and 1930s hard-boiled fiction, claiming that noir critics are misguided in their claim that the femme fatale has historical specificity to postwar America. The writer summarizes criticism on the femme fatale in film noir and proceeds to underscore the significant contributions to made by the hard-boiled tradition to noir. He believes that these contributions point to a pre-war male anxiety about female independence that he traces to the economic instability of the Depression. From this anxiety during the Depression, the author claims, came the femme fatale of hard-boiled fiction. He focuses on James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity to exemplify that the femmes fatales in these novels are identical to their film noir counterparts. Furthermore, he discusses the difference between popular fiction and hard-boiled fiction, contrasting Cain's novels with Sinclair Lewis’ Ann Vickers. He concludes that critics who emphasize the historical specificity of the femme fatale in film noir have not adequately familiarized themselves with the history of American working women and have privileged the historical weight of film over literature.

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