Ann Kris Kemna, Freie Universität Berlin

Dark Matter: Fictionalizing the Feminist Now in the Domestic Noir

The basis of my dissertation is a recent literary genre and noir adaptation that has been on the rise internationally: the Domestic Noir. These novels cite the sinister and uncanny urban atmosphere of classic film noir and its successors across different media, centering around pressing social matters. However, the Domestic Noir is characterized by a distinctly female perspective and set in the suburban domestic sphere specifically, framing it as a “dangerous prospect” for its population (Crouch, 2013). Moreover, the genre has become increasingly popular in the 2010s, a decade of feminist “resurgence” (Gill, 2017, 612). Global movements protesting against femicides, sexual violence, and for bodily autonomy under the slogans “Ni Una Menos”, #metoo, and “My Body, my Choice”, reflect this. At the same time, popular feminism has been accompanied by commercialization and brands capitalizing on it. As mainstream literature, Domestic Noir novels are also affected by this. They fictionalize the themes of the just mentioned feminist protests and are accessible to a large number of readers with different backgrounds. At the same time, they are produced to be profitable for major publishing houses and film production companies adapting them for the screen. They also predominantly center around characters who are what the “dominant culture” of popular feminism has to be criticized for: “white, middle-class, cis-gendered, and heteronormative” (Banet-Weiser, 2018, 13).

My dissertation focuses on the implications of noir as a stylistic device in the Domestic Noir. Noir imagery is certainly “broadly ingrained in consumer consciousness” (Marling, 2013, 155). It definitely spins a dark framework around, but also highlightes, the feminist core themes in this genre, namely motherhood, relationships, and emancipation. Moreover, the alleged orderliness of (hetero-) normative settings is deconstructed through noir here, ranging from an alcoholic convicting her ex-husband of gaslighting her in Paula Hawkins’ bestseller The Girl on the Train (2015), to a shattered mother-daughter relationship in Ashley Audrain’s The Push (2021), caused by misogyny and generational trauma, and the systemic racism and classism a British Bangladeshi family faces when moving to a new neighborhood in Kia Abdullah’s Those People Next Door (2023). In my dissertation, I take the global dimension of the genre into account and close-read novels by international authors to underline the variability in the negotiation of their feminist themes as well as intersectional approaches to them. I broaden the existing scholarship on the genre by reading the novels through a noir lens and building a bridge between their noir tropes and the contemporary (popular) feminist context surrounding them. Doing so, I emphasize the collective feminist potential inherent in them. Despite its market value, I argue that noir functions as an instrument of mainstream feminist intervention in the Domestic Noir.


Banet-Weiser, Sarah. Empowered : Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny. Duke University Press, 2018.

Crouch, Julia. 8. 2013 “Genre Bender.”., visited 2023-

Gill, Rosalind. “The affective, cultural and psychic life of postfeminism: A postfeminist sensibility 10 years on.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 20 (2017).

Marling, William. “Crime Fiction and Film Noir.” A Companion to Film Noir. Ed. Spicer Andrew and Helen Hanson. Chichester: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2013. 142–157.