Browsing Theses and Dissertations by Subject "Victorian"
Now showing items 1-4 of 4
"All Men are Builders": Architectural Structures in the Victorian NovelNineteenth-century Britain experienced a confluence of a rapidly urbanizing physical environment, radical changes in the hierarchical relationships in society as well as in the natural sciences, and a nostalgic fascination with antiquities, especially gothic architecture. The realist novels of this period reflect this tension between dramatic social restructuring and a conservative impulse to remember and maintain the world as it has been. This dissertation focuses on the word structure to unpack the implications of these opposing forces, both for our understanding of the social structures that novels reflect, and the narrative structures that novels create. To address these issues, I examine the architectural structures described in Victorian realist novels, drawing parallels with their social and narrative structures. In Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit (1855), George Eliot's Adam Bede (1859), and Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) and Jude the Obscure (1895), descriptions of houses and barns, churches and cathedrals, shops and factories, and courthouses and schools are thematically important because they draw our attention to the novels' interest in the social structures that underlie the fictional worlds they represent. Buildings provide spaces where members of a community may work towards a shared purpose; they also embody that community's common knowledge, values, and ideals. These novels take up the thematic concern with structure through their own formal narrative structuring work. Much like an architect builds a physical structure, novels build a narrative structure by carefully arranging patterns, sequences, proportions, and perspectives. An examination of a novel's description of a building reveals moments of self-reflexive consideration of the narratives it constructs. These are moments that interrogate the building materials of narrative and how their arrangement becomes meaningful, that consider what the narrative structure can accommodate and what it excludes, and that invite us to attend to the ways in which the act of structuring a narrative situates it in time, in relation to the past, present, and future. The choices an architect makes about ornaments and materials, the way a building integrates the surrounding environment, and the way its proportions compare to a human scale, all constitute a kind of language; moreover, the way people interact with, in, and around these built spaces suggests it is a dynamic and evolving language. Preeminent Victorian art and social critic John Ruskin's architectural treatise, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) serves as a master key to interpreting the Victorian understanding of architectural language in the novels under investigation. Because Ruskin's writings pervaded mid-century artistic discourse, and because he turned his critical gaze on such a wide range of the mid-nineteenth century's most important aesthetic, social, philosophical, and ethical concerns, his work provides an invaluable bridge between the physical, social, and narrative structures in these novels. Each of Ruskin's "lamps" represents a specific architectural principle; each chapter in this project pairs a novel with a lamp with thematic and formal resonance.
Selective Memory: Victorian Periodical Receptions of Eighteenth-Century and Romantic NovelsAttention to Victorian reviews of eighteenth-century and Romantic novels reveals sympathy's importance to the survival of classic novels and its role as a catalyst for critical standards that remain central. I demonstrate that reviewers used sympathy to describe a widespread but untheorized system of useful reading. Reviewers argue that rational sympathy could make reading a process of moral education. That is, if readers reject emotional stimulation, then reading about characters' motives teaches readers to evaluate the people and situations they encounter in the real world. By looking at already canonical novelists like Richardson, Fielding and Scott, by denying canonicity to gothic novelists, and by creating new classics with figures like Austen, Victorian reviewers engage sympathy to teach their readers how to read reviews and novels appropriately. In doing so, reviewers also alter the reviewing voice, making it more sympathetic as well as using it to cajole and convince readers (rather than expecting agreement based on the reviewer's expertise). Additionally, reviewers use persuasive techniques to build imagined relationships between readers, encouraging readers to take the moral ideals garnered from their reading and put them to use in relationships. I claim, then, that Victorian reviews, aimed at leisure readers, explore artistic questions primarily as contributors to sympathy and focus on how to read for moral and emotional education. As a result, crucial definitions and tenets about novel writing and reading are buried in paragraphs on morality or biography. If scholars understand why and how Victorian reviewers criticize novels, they will also recognize the complex arguments in these oft-derided articles. The result will be a fuller understanding of the history of novel criticism and a clearer picture of the values that guided the canonizing process during the Victorian period.
SUGGESTIVE SILENCES: SEXUALITY AND THE AESTHETIC NOVELThis dissertation addresses how the philosophy, subculture, and sexuality of aestheticism interact with the form of the nineteenth-century novel. One primary result of this exploration is a nuanced delineation of the aesthetic novel in its formal characteristics, its content, and most notably, in the sexually charged silences that both this form and content reveal--silences made audible to invested aesthetic readers through coded doubleness. Through thus defining the aesthetic novel and seeking to articulate the unspoken sexual transgressions that are, as is argued, requisite therein, this project sheds new light both on the partially submerged sexuality of aestheticism as a movement, and on why novels account for so small a portion of the aesthetic movement's output--topics first raised in part by Linda Dowling, Dennis Denisoff, and Talia Schaffer. By engaging Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Vernon Lee's Miss Brown (1884), Walter Pater's Marius the Epicurean (1885), Robert Hichens' The Green Carnation (1894), John Meade Falkner's The Lost Stradivarius (1895), and Aubrey Beardsley's Venus and Tannhäuser (1895), this dissertation demonstrates that, whether politically engaged as affirmation or using sexuality as a way to communicate rejection of middle-class morality and its own fascination with the unusual, aestheticism defines itself by its inclusion of unusual sexual situations. This argument is in part guided by and grapples with theoretical writings by Victorian sources including Walter Pater, Matthew Arnold, and Walter Hamilton and contemporary sources including Alistair Fowler, Nancy Armstrong, and D. A. Miller. Central to the dissertation are the suggestive silences in aesthetic novels that function not merely as the unsaid, but appear at points that beg explanation or exploration, indicating the presence of the forbidden with the frisson between interest and absence. Such moments form a pattern of mysterious sexual omissions in the novels of aestheticism, titillating audiences with their implied perversity, but never explicitly exploring it on account of legal, economic, and social censorship. Finally, this project shows that the unspeakable gaps in legal above-ground literature can easily be articulated within the already illegal world of pornography, which this dissertation accesses through the aesthetic and pornographic Teleny (1893).
The Angel Rocks the House: An Unstable IconThe Angel in the House: An Unstable Icon examines the ways in which the figure named in Coventry Patmore's series of mid-nineteenth century poems provoked an anxiety that manifests itself consistently in British literature throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, where the family beacon, the one whose raison d'être was to guide her husband and children away from the immorality rife in the public sphere, instead actively interfered with the good instincts of her offspring, substituted her own wishes for theirs, and caused irreparable harm in the process. This dissertation analyzes the ways in which mother figures in mid-century novels interrogate the angel-mother in particular and suggest the destructive capability inherent in that figure. It argues that the literary questioning of the ideal supports what Poovey calls "uneven development" in the construction of a gender model. The Angel in the House: An Unstable Icon will demonstrate that at the hands of Thomas Hardy and Henry James in particular, the mother is reimagined into a figure bearing little resemblance to the Angel mother, except in her inheritance of a belief that the mother must remain her child's guide, despite the inclinations of their adult children toward a new autonomy. While the Victorian consciousness seems to have experienced a splitting--women were either good or bad, mothers were either good or bad--Hardy and James resist such splitting, instead exploring the gaps and flaws in the Angel-in-the-House ideology, in the process establishing the prototype for mother figures who little resemble Angels, in other words, fully human mothers, that both British and American Modernists such as D. H. Lawrence, William Faulkner, and Virginia Woolf would adapt as central figures in their major works.