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Title: Dialogue and identity : characterization of the novels of Theodor Fontane
Author: Bowman, P. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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In this study I use Mikhail Bakhtin's theories of subjectivity, language and literature to produce original interpretations of characterization in the novels of Theodor Fontane. In the first chapter I summarize Bakhtin's theory of 'dialogism', which holds that language is composed of a multiplicity of socially and ideologically constituted discourses in a state of constant interaction with one another. In the second chapter, I reconstruct Fontane's theory of the novel by identifying a central distinction in his diverse literary critical writings between 'single-voiced' fiction of one sort or another and what he calls 'Interessenvertretung' (the representation of interests), a type of writing which grows out of the social and ideological diversity of its subject matter. In the third chapter I look at Fontane's Unwiederbringlich in terms of the social discourses it contains and examine the interaction between these discourse and the characters and the narrator of the story. In the fourth chapter I depart from the view that Fontane's novels primarily depict the conflict between individuals and impersonal social forces by arguing that identity-formation in his characters is determined mainly by 'dialogic' interaction between individual subjects. In the final chapter I consider the relative lack of conflict between characters which makes Fontane's last novel, Der Stechlin, unique among his major works. I argue that this lack of conflict is only possible because of the careful avoidance by characters of all strongly held views, and that this causes an extreme and debilitating language-consciousness. In the fourth and fifth chapters, I also attempt to use the insights gained from Bakhtinian analysis of Fontane's novels to cast some reflected light on Bakhtin's theories themselves.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available