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Ivy Compton-Burnett and the inter-war novel

van Lopik, A.R.; (2011) Ivy Compton-Burnett and the inter-war novel. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Ivy Compton-Burnett's inter-war novels have rarely been closely considered in relation to that period's dominant sociocultural paradigms. Counteracting the existing critical tendency to consider her work as eccentric and a-historical, this thesis situates the novels within a succession of aesthetic, political, and social discourses in order to foreground their radical reshaping of prevailing modes of thought and expression. Compton-Burnett's mordant chronicles of family life typify inter-war literary culture's rejection of its Victorian and Edwardian heritage and its critique of their lingering post-war presence through an examination of apparently defunct conservative and increasingly nostalgic constructions of individual and national identity. The thesis is constructed in two parts; the first considering the broad cultural positioning of her work, the second focussing more closely upon its interaction with specific literary, commercial, and sociological models. Beginning with Compton-Burnett's juvenile novel Dolores, I will consider the relation between her early education and reading and the evolution of her mature literary style by tracing an emergent comic subversion of the melodramatic plots of nineteenth-century fiction which culminated in an idiosyncratic form of neo-Victorianism. The following chapter examines her work's early critical reception, its alignment with certain precepts of modernist form associated with a Post-Impressionist Bloomsbury aesthetic, and the adumbration of a specifically 'high-brow' identity. Building upon this foundation, the subsequent chapters consider Compton-Burnett's work thematically in terms of: late twenties and early thirties constructions of gender and sexuality in a climate of censorship and coincident taste for literary deviance; the Golden Age detective novel and psychological investigations of violence and criminality; and the English country house as a site of cultural and historical fragmentation. Together, these chapters reconstruct an essentially avant-garde identity which the author's perceived focus upon middle-class domesticity, her longevity and incremental inscription as a minor British institution have in recent decades eroded.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Ivy Compton-Burnett and the inter-war novel
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Language and Literature

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