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Synthetic realism: Edwardian experiments in the novel, 1901 - 1910

Jones, CR; (2017) Synthetic realism: Edwardian experiments in the novel, 1901 - 1910. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis offers a study of realist novels of the Edwardian period, to re-inscribe an appreciation of their radicalism as a necessary link between fin-de-siècle naturalism and early modernism. In an era characterised by uncertainty – against the backdrop of a new science of relativity, agnostic secularism and technological advances – realist fiction at the turn of the twentieth century demonstrates a twofold investment in forces of fragmentation and synthesis. I posit that experiments in realism as a genre should be understood as a fundamental constituent component of Edwardian attempts to incorporate such antinomies to a representational aesthetic, seeking to combine a late-Victorian mourning for religious and philosophical teleologies with the admittance of indeterminism as a form of meaning in itself. This is further complicated by a desire for the oracular utterances of the realist author to testify to his or her link with reality and truth, in compensation for the indigence of sacred or metaphysical alternatives. I propose that one way to conceive of the new form of writing engendered by this should be termed ‘synthetic realism’: that is, a form of realism based on and characterised by a searching scepticism as to reality’s appearances, which aims at what is at once both a more abstract and a more concrete notion of truth, one whose material manifestations carry with it the mark of its relation to a whole range of universal truths of which it is part. Synthetic realism discovers that the search for context proves endless, bound only by our ability to perceive or conceive. Individual chapters of this thesis will examine the competing impulses to ‘analysis’ and ‘synthesis’ as they are manifested in the Edwardian fiction of Joseph Conrad, May Sinclair, Arnold Bennett and H.G. Wells by way of their attention to the ephemeral category of ‘Reality’.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Synthetic realism: Edwardian experiments in the novel, 1901 - 1910
Event: UCL
Language: English
Keywords: Realism, literature, novel, Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, H.G. Wells, May Sinclair, Edwardian, fiction
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1555522
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