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Gissing, Shakespeare, and the Life of Writing

Ue, WHT; (2015) Gissing, Shakespeare, and the Life of Writing. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This dissertation, taking George Gissing as its central example, argues that Shakespeare and his writing both provide late-Victorian writers with a vocabulary for self-expression and urge them to see their work as part of a larger national project. Gissing is a particularly interesting case study because he, alongside his close contemporary C. H. Herford, had more Shakespeare at school than most of their generation, and because he actively responds to the forms and stories of Shakespeare’s work in his own prose and poetry. This thesis examines the nature of Gissing’s intense lifelong engagement with Shakespeare, and inspects Shakespeare’s canonicity in the late nineteenth century in the context of the imaginative literature of the time. It attends to some of the ways in which Shakespeare enters the Victorian education system, in which his language is imbricated in Gissing’s writing, and in which he changes his views about theatre and the novel—about the theories, potentials, and limits of both forms. My aim is to show that Shakespeare not only offers Gissing and his contemporaries rich material, but also informs their formal and narrative strategies. Drawing on archival findings about Gissing’s schooldays (1872-76), material that has not been discussed previously, and through close readings of Workers in the Dawn (1880), The Nether World (1889), New Grub Street (1891), Gissing’s writing on Dickens (1898-1903), and The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903), this dissertation investigates the symbiosis between Shakespeare and the late-Victorian novel and imaginative response to the dawning of twentieth-century modernity, to demonstrate that this relationship affects our understandings of his reception in and Victorian literature and culture. This thesis offers the first single unified account of Shakespeare’s influence on Gissing and suggests that Shakespeare’s authorship operates as a formative model for Gissing and his contemporaries in their figuring of the life of writing, and in its impact on British national identity. It concludes that we can learn more about both Gissing and the changes to English language, literature, and identity at the end of the nineteenth century by documenting and historicizing this connection.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Gissing, Shakespeare, and the Life of Writing
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Laws
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1469525
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