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Title: Approaches to history and the historical individual in the Victorian historical novel
Author: Thompson, Hannah
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis is concerned with the influence that certain forms of history writing in the nineteenth century had upon the process of capturing past experience as history through narrative. The thesis adopts a constructivist approach, investigating the ways that humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences and ideas. Working on the premise that the observation of the past is an active, constructive process of understanding, this study explores the development of the historical novel as a model of historical experience and knowledge. Chapter one presents an overview of nineteenth-century historiography to highlight the context in which the discipline of history adopted elements of empirical data analysis, and the influence these practices had upon the development of realism in the novel. The reasons behind the interest in history in the nineteenth century are explored, as are the rise of the historical novel and popular history writing that accompanied it. Chapter two examines Thackeray's treatment of grand narrative, exemplified in Thomas Macaulay's History of England, and centres on Thackeray's fictional memoir, The History of Henry Esmond. The chapter references Carlyle's work on the heroic, using Henry Esmond's position as historical participant and self-fashioned author to investigate the staging of history through narrative. Chapters three and four examine George Eliot's historical works, Romola and Middlemarch, in the context of Eliot's formulation of the historic imagination, and its effect upon the representation of history in her work. Romola and Middlemarch select hidden forms of historical narrative and develop different techniques of observation to relay a distinct view of the past through its representation. Romola perceives historic events from the position of the domestic, female central character, while Middlemarch studies the significance of un-historic acts through the un-historic narrative of Dorothea. Both texts draw upon Thomas Carlyle's essays on history and Past and Present to develop a view of history influenced by the processes used to describe its reanimation. Chapter five investigates Thomas Hardy's The Trumpet-Major, exploring the relevance of Hardy's selection of a historically 'insignificant' event for the subject of his novel. Carlyle's vision of world history is contrasted with Hardy's transformation of history into direct experience in the novel, and the chapter explores the implications that this idea of history has upon the construction of reality portrayed in his novels.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available