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Title: Thackeray's major novels : a study in the context of their contemporary reception
Author: Potter, N. H.
Awarding Body: University College of Swansea
Current Institution: Swansea University
Date of Award: 1978
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This study explores the relationship between Thackeray's novels and what contemporary critics made of them, in the context of the gradual displacement of an "idealist" by a "realist" bias in critical assumptions. Chapter One analyses the reception of Vanity Fair and concludes that the prevailing "idealist" bias denies it the status of art, and that Thackeray's early work provides a tradition to confirm this judgement. Chapter Two discusses Thackeray's position as a popular writer, and concludes that his "public" and "private" personalities are separate, and find simultaneous expression in Pendennis. Chapter Three concludes that the reception of Pendennis testifies to his popularity, but cannot advance his status. Chapter Four suggests that Esmond continues what is revealed as a search for values in Thackeray's work, and discerns a tension between this and the cultural demands of the period. Chapters Five and Six discuss The Newcomes as the culmination of the search in a disjunction between values in literature and in the world which is so complete that the book is seen as a triumph of "realism" while having itself come to the limits of "realism". Chapters Seven, Eight, and Nine discuss retrospective analyses of Thackeray's work, clarifying the context of the critical debate in the social and cultural demands of the time. Chapter Ten suggests that in The Virginians, the autonomy of values is displaced by history conceived of as an impersonal force. Lovel the Widower explores the alienation consequent upon this; Philip is a pot-pourri of earlier works; Denis Duval a final enigma (Chapter Eleven). Reviews of these novels, and obituary notices (Chapter Twelve), reveal the extent to which "realism", which Thackeray had focussed and even initiated, had developed to overtake him.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available