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Title: Resurgence and renovation : the contemporary English country house novel after 2000
Author: Williams, Barbara Janette
ISNI:       0000 0004 5991 0738
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines the resurgence of the English country house novel since 2000 as part of the growing popularity of the country house setting in contemporary British culture. In the context of economic recession, growing English nationalism, and a Conservative-led government accused of producing a ‘Downton Abbey-style society’, country house texts are often dismissed as nostalgic for a conservative social order. This study reclaims the English country house novel from this critical dismissal, stressing the genre’s political ambivalence. While readings of the country house resurgence are mostly played out through the media’s reaction to television programmes, my research provides a detailed and comparative examination of literary texts currently missing from the debate. I situate Ian McEwan’s Atonement (2001), Sally Beauman’s Rebecca’s Tale (2001), Toby Litt’s Finding Myself (2003), Wesley Stace’s Misfortune (2005), Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale (2006), Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger (2009), and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Stranger’s Child (2011) within a wider body of discourse on the country house, exploring the contemporary relevance and cultural value of the setting. It is my contention that the English country house novel self-consciously negotiates its growing popularity in contemporary culture. In chapter one, I argue that the recent shift from material to textual inheritance in the genre is a way of reclaiming voices traditionally excluded from the canonical house of fiction. In chapter two, I examine the ideological significance of detail in the country house aesthetic. In chapter three, I explore how the generic preoccupation with authenticity is used to negotiate cultural value. Finally in chapter four, I assert that the trope of ruin signifies an evaluation of the contemporary currency of the country house setting. As such, I suggest that the genre, like the houses it depicts, is undergoing reformation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available