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Title: "The history of a poet's mind" : the autobiographical writing of Henry James, Siegried Sassoon and Dorothy Richardson
Author: Pooler, Mhairi Catriona
ISNI:       0000 0004 2721 7621
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis considers the method and motivation of the self-representation of the author as a literary artist-hero in the autobiographical sequences of Henry James, Siegfried Sassoon and Dorothy Richardson, and in particular it traces the parallels between these texts and the model of the German Romantic Künstlerroman. In so doing, I show that the tropes and themes of the Künstlerroman genre assist the autobiographers’ representation of artistic identity in a period of increasingly fragmented conceptions of selfhood. Underlying my hermeneutic approach is the concept of literary inheritance as a movement from tradition to individual innovation, reflected in a motif of the parent-child relationship, and in autobiographical tropes, and language usage. These are traced in each text under review and weave together issues of historical context, genre innovation, and literary self-invention. The three authors demonstrate a shared preoccupation with the role of life experience in the creation of art, and with the interconnection of personality and style. This study concludes that an understanding of the relation of the artist to the literary account of their own life creates a challenge to poststructuralist perceptions of the gap between author and text. The introduction outlines the particular relevance of the historical moment between 1910 and 1920 for the study of these autobiographical works. Chapter one presents my methodological approach in relation to pertinent autobiography theory and provides an overview of the Künstlerroman genre, its transference from German to English literature, and the changing intentions of autobiographers between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as demonstrated in Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son. Chapters two and three consider James’s A Small Boy and Others, Notes of a Son and Brother and The Middle Years, while chapters four and five examine Sassoon’s The Old Century and Seven More Years, The Weald of Youth and Siegfried’s Journey. These four chapters analyse the narrative technique employed in each case and its intimate relationship with the authors’ self-image. Chapter six focuses on the stylistic innovations of Richardson’s Pilgrimage. The conclusion then addresses the idea that ‘style is the man himself’, that a second ‘portrait’ can be read in the formal choices made in the text’s construction, and, as a result, considers the particular role of autobiographical writing for our reading of the artist.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available