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Title: Transformations of pastoral : studies in the idyllic fiction of Mary Russell Mitford, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy
Author: Hunter, Shelagh
ISNI:       0000 0001 3584 7701
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1981
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This study considers some nineteenth century novels which raise a critical problem about the relation of the author to his material. It seeks to establish that the distance which characterises the focus of the narrator in Our Village, Cranford, Cousin Phillis, Adam Bede, Under the Greenwood Tree, Far from the Madding Crowd and The Woodlanders, distinguishes these novels as Victorian idylls, that is as Victorian transformations of pastoral. "Pastoral" is not here considered in terms of its subject-matter (shepherds, pipes, song-contests etc) but (following Empson) as a mode of perspective. The study describes the Victorian idyll as a picture of simple life presented simultaneously with the acknowledgement or consciousness of a complex response to it. The narrative strategies which convey this double view are the subject of the central chapters on the novels. Chapter I defines the variety of contemporary idyllic effects by means of Clough's The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich and Tennyson's English Idyls which were written and received as modern versions of pastoral, Arnold's distinction between simplicite and simplesse is examined and the poems he uses as illustration, Wordsworth's "Michael"' and Tennyson's "Dora", are explored to find a vocabulary for the description of idyllic methods. Wordsworth's definition of the idyIlium (1815 Preface) and Schiller's of the idyll as a "sentimental" code (Naive and Sentimental Poetry") further define the mode of the idyll as conceived in the nineteenth century. Comparison is made with genre painting which provides not only a parallel Victorian mode of presenting the simple to the sophisticated but, as itself a narrative node, offers an insight into the interaction of movement and stasis in the idyllic novel. The Victorian idyll presents a picture of the traditional oppositions of pastoral-the simple and the sophisticated, the rustic and the urban etc-held in a precarious balance viewed by the narrator from an un-ironic, unjudging distance. The effect of this idyllic perspective is seen predominantly in the structure of the novels; they do not contain isolable, traditional pastoral elements either exclusively or to the same degree as one another. The Victorian idyll is shown to be particularly apt for the description of social change; the novels present historical process and enduring values in a single frame. The mode, according to Schiller, is the hardest of the "reflective" modes to sustain. Only a few best of the sketches of Our Village achieve the incorporation of the reader's reflection into the response which characterises the idyll, Elizabeth Gaskell's fully achieved idylls are the shortest of her extended works. George Eliot does not repeat the node after Adam Bede. Hardy achieved three different but equally perfect idylls, but his last novels are tragic. The conclusion to this study considers the particular relation of the idyllic novel to social reality, which is not seen as separately interpretable in twentieth century terms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain ; PR English literature