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Title: The evolution of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's fiction in the metropolitan and provincial periodical presses
Author: Goddard, Tabitha
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 7843
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2012
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Mary Elizabeth Braddon's popular novels surged into the literary marketplace following her bestseller Lady Audley's Secret (1862). One reason for this was the burgeoning availability of miscellany journals after the repeal of the 'taxes on knowledge'. Fresh avenues to the reading public were unlocked for aspiring authors, and Braddon's novels were offered increasingly prominent positions for serialisation. Contemporary critics' inflated responses reflect the cultural anxiety that this phenomenon evoked - Braddon's sensation fiction was charged as both cause and effect of a 'negative' development in reading practices. This thesis suggests an alternative view of Braddon's cultural significance. Braddon's novels scrutinised the fast-paced industrial society that impacted her readers' lives and value systems. She forged an affinity with readers through her engagement with subjects of popular interest. Her serialisation history rejects conventional nineteenth-century formulations of artistic value in which the literary hierarchy reflects the values of the social hegemony. Two of the most prominent journals that carried her fiction, Temple Bar and Belgravia, actively challenge this tenet. Yet they also reveal how the interdependence between serialised fiction and framing material could both aid, and hinder, an author's wider ambition. Braddon's serialisations demonstrate how her artistic and professional development responded to fluctuating evaluations of quality in art. Through them, we can trace the increasing significance of her readerships, not just as conveyers of commercial success, but also as the determiners of quality in popular fiction. As Braddon's reading public continued to develop, so too did the vehicles that carried her fiction. This resulted in a pioneering role in the emerging weekly newspaper syndicates that offered broad new readerships. Sensation in fiction became legitimate creative expression in the publications that carried Braddon's fiction to its diverse primary readerships. Her popular novels reflect these readers' desire to participate in an extensive range of social and political debates. Ultimately Braddon's artistic and professional progress responds to her readers' evolving cultural perceptions, representing the cause and effect of continuous ideological transformation in popular fiction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available