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Ideology and the novel in the 1850s.

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posted on 19.11.2015, 09:00 by Simon. Dentith
The thesis is divided into seven chapters, the first four of which provide a descriptive account of a set of ideological narratives ('myths') particularly important in the 1850s: (1) self-help, and the myth of the self-made man, as it is narrated in the non-fictional writings of Smiles, several 'success manuals', and in the novels of Dickens, Lytton, Trollope, D.H. Mulock, lever and Geraldine Jewsbury. (2) narratives of fraud, as they are found in the novels of Geraldine Jewsbury, Emma Robirson, Catherine Sinclair, Lytton, Trollope and Leveri in the writings of Carlyle, D. Morier Evans, Lalor, Smiles and J.S. Mill. (3) charity, as it is narrated in the novel, the periodicals, and other writings, especially by malthus and Spencer. (4) pre-Darwinian ideas of race, especially as they are organized around the category of type. In all four cases, I attempt to give an account of the social, economic and ideological fores which produced the various narrations of the underlying narrative. These myths attempt to supply the deficiencies of political economy as a morally interpellant ideology, but the relationships within this set of myths are contradictory, depending on different conceptions of worth, labour and gentility; nevertheless, they can and do co-exist in the same text. In the fifth chapter, In critical account of literary- critical attempts to categorize the appearance of such material in the novel as conventional. I suggest that these myths provide part of the ideological matrix in which the novels of the 185Os are situated, and I argue that precisely because such myths depend upon narrative, the novel is a privileged arena for their elaboration and, perhaps, subversion. Finally, in the last two chapters I give extended analyses of Little Dorrit and The Newcomes, stressing the way that both texts avoid ideological foreclosure though using different means to do so.


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University of Leicester

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