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Title: Corresponding forms : aspects of the eighteenth-century letter
Author: Egan, Grace
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 7555
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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My thesis investigates the dialogic aspects and literary qualities ascribed to letters during the long eighteenth century. In part this involves documenting the correspondence between letters and other genres, such as the novel. Being in correspondence encouraged writers such as Burney and Johnson to express the relationship between sender and recipient in interesting ways. I posit that the letter offered a sophisticated means for writers, including those in Richardson's circle, to represent speech and thought, and mimic (with varying degrees of indirection), that of others. I consider the editorial habits and typographical conventions that governed letter-writing during the period, honing in on Richardson's contributions. I link his claim that letters were written 'to the Moment' with broader tropes of 'occasional' style, and show how this manifests in letters' intricate modulations of tense and person. Chapter 1 details the conventions that prevailed in letters of the period, and their interactions with irony and innovation. I compare convention in the epistolary novels of Smollett and Richardson, and look at closure in the Johnson-Thrale correspondence. Chapter 2 demonstrates that various methods of combining one's voice with others were utilized in letters (such as those of the Burney family), including some that took advantage of the epistolary form and its reputation as 'talking on paper'. Chapter 3 shows the role of mimesis in maintaining the dialogic structure of letters, and links it to contemporary theories of sympathy and sentiment. Chapters 4 and 5 apply the findings about epistolary tradition, polyphony and sentimentalism to the letters of Sterne and Burns. In them, there is a mixture of sentiment and irony, and of individual and 'correspondent' styles. The conclusion discusses the editing of letters, both in situ and in preparation for publication. The twin ideals of spontaneity and sincerity, I conclude, have influenced the way we choose to edit letters in scholarly publications.
Supervisor: Johnston, Freya Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Authors ; English--18th century--Correspondence ; English letters--18th century--History and criticism ; Great Britain--Intellectual life--18th century