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Title: Vanity Fair from Bunyan to Thackeray : transformations of a trope
Author: Milne, Kirsty
ISNI:       0000 0004 2727 284X
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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Although Vanity Fair is just one episode in The Pilgrim's Progress, taking up barely a dozen pages in the first edition of 1678, it has had a potent and versatile afterlife. My thesis examines how the Vanity Fair trope is transformed between its appearance in The Pilgrim's Progress and the publication of Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair (1847-1848). Canvassing a range of printed material, from pamphlets and periodicals to canonical texts, my research contributes to literary scholarship in two ways. First, I show how the idea of Vanity Fair, which in Bunyan is a place of trial and terror, was tamed, secularised and feminised, becoming associated with consumption, pleasure and the notion of social life as a performance. Second, by exploring how Bunyan and Thackeray engaged with cultural memories, my thesis sheds light on the relationship between the individual and the collective imagination. Chapter 1 interrogates the critical tradition of interpreting Vanity Fair literally, as an actual fair and a critique of capitalism. Chapter 2 argues that Bunyan challenged and subverted an existing trope - that of the disruptive puritan, familiar from Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair. Chapter 3 looks at Vanity Fair in early imitations of The Pilgrim's Progress (including Bunyan's own Second Part). Chapter 4 ranges across the eighteenth century to show how Vanity Fair is appropriated as an idiom for conceptualising public space and leisure. Chapter 5 examines how the trope becomes, in Thackeray's Vanity Fair, an ambivalent memory of a puritan inheritance. My conclusion reflects on how, through the medium of cultural memory, Bunyan's puritan protest became one of the governing metaphors of modern consumerism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available