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Title: Novel upstarts : Frances Burney and the lower middle class
Author: Smallegoor, Elles
ISNI:       0000 0004 2717 2961
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2010
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Frances Burney was the only major long eighteenth-century novelist to bring shopkeepers and tradesmen into literary focus. The current study seeks to shed light on this neglected aspect of the author’s work. By combining textual analysis with historicist, and, to a lesser extent, biographical criticism, it examines the author’s four novels alongside a cultural and literary trend that emerges in late eighteenth-century England and is defined by an increased fascination for, and hostility against, economically prospering retailers and smaller tradesmen. Through her fiction, Burney developed new strategies to represent the domestic trader as an unwelcome new upstart, and, it is argued, contributed to the popular conceptualisation of a social stratum that we nowadays call the lower middle class. Her novels should not be labelled reactionary. Even though they are implicated in traditional processes of stratification, they promote a progressive social vision in which the existence of the domestic trader is recognised rather than negated. More generally, this study argues that the concept of the lower middle class can be an enriching hermeneutic tool for scholars of eighteenth-century studies. By using the lower middle class as a conceptual framework within which to investigate not only Burney’s novels but a whole body of writings on the subject of the upwardly mobile trader, it shows, firstly, that the historian can draw on eighteenth-century literature to capture a sense of how certain models of class come into being and, secondly, that the literary critic can effectively use the category of social class to make new discoveries, not only about eighteenth-century literature but also about Burney’s unique contribution to the development of the novel genre.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available