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Title: Waiting upon God : divine providence in the work of Margaret Oliphant.
Author: Iddon, Christine Susan.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3586 0949
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis examines Mrs. Oliphant's lifelong engagement with the subject of divine Providence. Providence is shown in this thesis to be a deeply complex set of frequently conflicting theories, and the resultant contradictory epistemology is reflected in Oliphant's changing intellectual, emotional and spiritual responses to it. Oliphant's negotiations with what she believed to be a coherent ideology are seen to demonstrate two things: firstly, its incoherence; secondly (and paradoxically) her fear of the possibility of a temporal existence devoid of the meaning which mirrors the divine Order that underpins it. Beginning with an analysis of what Oliphant would have understood by 'divine Providence', the thesis identifies the chief theological ideologies which exerted an influence on her. The extent to which Calvinism, the most deep-rooted of these influences, pervades Oliphant's thinking gradually emerges. Drawing initially on a wide-ranging review of Oliphant's non-fictional writing, the thesis proceeds to an examination of four distinct movements apparent in the fiction, which show Oliphant's developing inclination to explore the problematic relation of Providence to the immediate workings of a small community. The thesis explores the relationship between narrative content and narrative structure to demonstrate that the latter is profoundly influenced by the former. The problems inherent in Oliphant's absolute insistence on the power and 'true' freedom of man's freewill - which she needs to see as alone being responsible for evil in the world - is shown to be irreconcilable with her belief in the totality, and totalitarianism, of divine ordaining. Cycles of despair in her life are therefore seen to be reflected in her fiction and are worked out as ethical paradoxes of certainty/uncertainty; action/passivity; permanence/impermanence. The volatile account of Providence which the novels under investigation elicit can be viewed as an arc which tracks the evolving process of abandonment to Providence, leading to abandonment by Providence, leading to an attempted reconstructed compromise with Providence. The Conclusion demonstrates how, in the late fiction, the temporal world exploits Providence as a paradigm of patriarchalism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available