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Henry Green: an oblique approach to the everyday

Shepley, N.S.; (2010) Henry Green: an oblique approach to the everyday. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Most work on the mid-twentieth-century English novelist Henry Green either seeks to place his writing firmly within its social and historical context or else offers up a single reading of the novels, focusing on the poetic or recreative qualities of Green's 1940s work. This thesis offers a different reading, neither taking the novels as all of a piece nor ignoring Green's later work. It suggests that his fiction plays with narrative form and the obliqueness of language to explore and reveal the indeterminacy of the everyday, from the earliest short stories -published in 1923 in the Eton ephemeral, College Days -right through to his last two dialogic novels, Nothing (1950) and Doting (1952). This thesis begins, drawing on Green's letters to Nevill Coghill and building on Jeremy Treglown's 2000 biography of Green, with an examination of how the open-ended pseudonym Henry Green, as a nominal half of Henry Yorke, the novelist's real name, provides neither total anonymity nor authorial authenticity. This ambivalence continues with the growing narratorial impersonality and indirection of the novels: the enigmatic multiplicity of symbols in Living (1929) and Party Going (1939); the underlying psychological impact of trauma in Caught (1943) and Back (1946); and the recurrent deflation or relegation of the event throughout Green's oeuvre. With Nothing and Doting, the author's presence is virtually erased, creating a connotative intensity reminiscent of the pseudonym Green -albeit stylistically rather than nominally where the repetition of conversational cliches can go by unnoticed, be read as poetry, or anything in between. Green's writing is undoubtedly poetic and extraordinary, but attention is also due to the cliched, repetitive or uneventful aspects of his fiction, which critics continue to dismiss. This study sets out to uncover a little more of the vast potential Which lies within this unostentatious backdrop of Green's work.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Henry Green: an oblique approach to the everyday
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Language and Literature

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