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Arthur Morrison, the Jago, and the realist representation of place

Cubitt, E; (2016) Arthur Morrison, the Jago, and the realist representation of place. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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In vitriolic exchanges with the critic H.D. Traill, Arthur Morrison (1863-1945) argued that the term ‘realist’ was impossible to define and must be innately subjective. Traill asserted that Morrison’s A Child of the Jago (1896) was a failure of realism, conjuring a place that ‘never did and never could exist.’ And yet, by 1900, the East End slum fictionalised in Morrison’s novel had been supplanted by the realist mythology of his account: ‘Jago’ had become, and remains, an accepted term to describe the real historical slum, the Nichol. This thesis examines Morrison’s contribution to the late-Victorian realist representation of the urban place. It responds to recent renewed interest about realism in literary studies, and to revived debates surrounding marginal writers of urban literature. Opening with a biographical study, I investigate Morrison’s fraught but intimate lifelong relationship with the East End. Morrison’s unadorned prose represents the late-Victorian East End as a site of absolute ordinariness rather than absolute poverty. Eschewing the views of outsiders, Morrison replaced the East End. Since the formation of The Arthur Morrison Society in 2007, Morrison has increasingly been the subject of critical examination. Studies have so frequently focused on evaluating the reality behind Morrison’s fiction that his significance to late-nineteenth century “New Realism” and the debates surrounding it has been overlooked. This thesis redresses this gap, and states that Morrison’s work signifies an artistic and temporal boundary of realism. Asserting that his most well-known novel, A Child of the Jago, is the apotheosis of his personal realist style, I examine it in the context of his prior and succeeding work, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as the slum fictions of his predecessors and contemporaries. I explore how Morrison’s work troubled the boundaries of reality and challenged the limits of representation.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Arthur Morrison, the Jago, and the realist representation of place
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 > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1493459
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