Snapshots from the cultural history of taste
This thesis explores the cultural, or literary history of taste as a social construct.
Taking the mid-eighteenth century as its starting point, the thesis adopts an historicist
approach to five very particular texts from this vast history. It begins by focusing on
three novels: firstly, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749) which was published at a
time when there was increasing pressure to create `standards' of taste; secondly, Jane
Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1811) which belongs to a moment that scrutinised
these `standards'; and thirdly, Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist (1837), which reflects
an era in which taste is driven by commercial forces. The final chapters explore a
significant twentieth-century development in the history of taste: namely, the
adaptation of text into film. Here, David Lean's Oliver Twist (1948) and Tony
Richardson's Tom Jones (1963) become the focus for close investigation. I argue that
Lean's Oliver Twist very much belongs to a post-war Britain in which the acquisition
of taste was part of a wider framework for maintaining national and social cohesion.
Richardson's Tom Jones, I argue, must be read in relation to the cultural revolutions in
tastet hat dominatedth e early 1960s.