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Title: Public roles and private lives : aristocratic adultery in late Georgian England
Author: Law, Susan Carolyn
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 9869
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis examines the complex links between morality and leadership, by using adultery as a window through which to reassess the position of the aristocracy in late Georgian England. It analyses the construction and performance of aristocratic roles, and illustrates how various literary representations played an active part in manipulating public attitudes and creating change. It charts ways in which narratives of adultery were exploited for commercial and political motives, undermining the traditional basis of hereditary power by questioning moral fitness to rule, and ultimately contributing to the fundamental re-imagining of social structure expressed in the 1832 Reform Act. The old ‘aristocratic political history’ is reassessed through the lens of new cultural history by re-integrating literary evidence, to contribute new perspectives on the social and cultural position of the aristocracy. A key argument is that aristocratic roles were constructed over time through the interaction of successive layers of performance in everyday life and literature. This theory is intended as a fresh contribution to wider current debates on how readers interpret and respond to texts, by exploring notions of representation, self-representation and the role of literature in shaping both. The two concepts underpinning this work are the notion of theatre as a metaphor for life in which people enact a variety of roles, and the belief that literature has an active influence on attitudes and behaviours. By focussing on adultery as a social act, it investigates the consequences of infidelity for public life, and its profound implications for the meaning of aristocracy sited within overlapping public and private spheres. It questions stereotypes of aristocratic vice popularised by commercial print culture, and compares these representations with personal narratives. This thesis argues that stories of adultery are significant cultural material artefacts which must be integrated with traditional social and political histories, to provide a full understanding of the performative nature of identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain