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Emotions in Ben-Hur: Dynamics of Emotion in Texts, Reception Contexts, and Audience Responses in the United States (1880-1931)

Lord-Kambitsch, EC; (2016) Emotions in Ben-Hur: Dynamics of Emotion in Texts, Reception Contexts, and Audience Responses in the United States (1880-1931). Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis explores emotions in the composition, circulation, popular cultural reception, and performance adaptations of Lew Wallace’s novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880) from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century in the United States. Initial mass consumption of the novel on an unprecedented scale gave way to a keen cultural desire to re-experience Wallace’s narrative, a desire that persists to this day, with a third major motion picture adaptation anticipated for release in 2016. Perpetuation of this ‘Ben-Hur phenomenon’ demonstrates the significance of Ben-Hur to the history of American receptions of ancient Rome, yet scholarship is only beginning to engage comprehensively with these texts and their functions within American popular culture. The aim of the thesis is to understand this phenomenon of cultural engagement with Ben-Hur through the lens of emotions. The centrality of audience perspectives in this study lies both in the analysis of the textual invitations for audiences’ emotional engagement, and in the survey of actual audience responses. The priority then is to evaluate subjective realms of audience interpretation within a complex interdependency of text, medium, reception context, and audience. This work thus speaks to current scholarly movements toward a greater concern for the audience’s experience of classical reception. Texts central to this project are Wallace’s novel and the performance adaptations that are directly inspired by the novel, and occur in immediate chronological succession, namely Klaw and Erlanger’s stageplay (1899-1920) and MGM’s film (1925). Textual analysis engages approaches from research in the history of emotions, and incorporates methods of reading representations of emotions specific to the media through which Ben-Hur is manifested in these texts. Evaluation of emotions in audience responses employs documentary evidence from a significant store of archival material that reveals evolving patterns of audiences’ engagement with the classical world in Ben-Hur.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Emotions in Ben-Hur: Dynamics of Emotion in Texts, Reception Contexts, and Audience Responses in the United States (1880-1931)
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1474927
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