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The constructed self: A study of three nineteenth-century novels

Walkers, Emma Jane; (2003) The constructed self: A study of three nineteenth-century novels. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis focuses on three major nineteenth-century European novels which are considered 'realistic', namely Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest and Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure. Central to the project are notions of 'construction' and 'constructedness'. Through close textual analysis I examine the ways in which the principal characters 'construct' themselves and those around them and how they in turn are constructed both by other characters and by the social norms and conventions of the particular world that they inhabit. I try to demonstrate how each of the novels functions not merely as a simple depiction or reflection of the social world but reflects profoundly upon the ways in which that world functions and is allowed to continue to function and upon the ways in which the society is as much a part of the individual as the individual is a part of society. I relate the process of the construction of the self to the more theoretic issue of the constructing processes practised by the narrating voice. My argument is that the deceptively 'solid' realistic narrative can actually, in these three instances, be shown to be anything but stable, coherent and rhetorically uncomplicated. Whilst the third person narrative voice in each text may function at one level as the impersonal, authoritative, chronicling presence that we might expect from a novel under the 'realistic' rubric, that voice simultaneously employs techniques at odds with our ideas of such an authority. These techniques contribute to the sense of construction and constructedness already established at the level of story or plot. The narrative mode, then, becomes part of the thematic indeterminacy, with the text itself implicated in the mechanisms of constructedness which are so central to the characters' experience.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The constructed self: A study of three nineteenth-century novels
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100589
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