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Title: 'The Victorian sublime' : nationality and aesthetics in British culture, 1833-1897
Author: Mitchard, Miles
ISNI:       0000 0004 2670 6423
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis explores concepts of nationality within British culture in the Victorian period, concentrating on the interrelated discourses of 'Englishness', visuality and 'touch'. It argues that 'empiricist' is not an adequate description of Victorian literature. English identity in the period, it aims to show, is notably fraught, organised primarily around the problematic theme of 'seeing' national identity. Beginning with Charles Kingsley's notion of English character and the class conflict that challenges it, the thesis examines the precariousness of authoritarian concepts of nationality. Such concepts, it argues, privilege visuality in striving towards the impossible goal of making Englishness manifest. Alfred Tennyson's attempt to produce a consummate visual metaphor for his imperialist England in the Idylls of the King is seen as an emblematic moment of difficulty. Along with Kingsley and Tennyson, Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge and John Ruskin's 'The Nature of Gothic' are explored both as variants of the hegemonic, visual mode of Englishness and as examples of how a counter-discourse, focused on metaphors of touch, emerges from within it. Dickens positions radical movements that challenge existing notions of English identity beyond the pale by associating them with bodily contamination, but thereby acknowledges them as an alternative. Similarly, for Ruskin it is corporeal 'foulness', which he associates with egalitarianism, which threatens to undermine the vision of the nation that 'The Nature of Gothic' epitomises. The photography of Julia Margaret Cameron is shown to reject the dominant identity politics in positioning itself as a version of 'touch' comparable to the radicalism that disturbs the above-mentioned writers. Thomas Hardy's The Well Beloved is shown to deploy the language of touch as part of a fundamentally sceptical take on regional and national identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available