"All Men are Builders": Architectural Structures in the Victorian Novel
|Logan, Peter Melville, 1951-
|Griffith, Joann D.
|Nineteenth-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.
|Temple University. Libraries
|Theses and Dissertations
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|British and Irish Literature
|"All Men are Builders": Architectural Structures in the Victorian Novel
|Dolan, Therese, 1946-
|Ford, Talissa J.
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