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Title: ‘A clear-sighted, sickly literature’ : the legacies of naturalism in twentieth- and twenty-first-century British fiction
Author: Stanley, Rachael Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 6350 8442
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis examines the legacies of literary naturalism in twentieth- and twenty- first-century British fiction. My work aims to look beyond the reductive summation of naturalism as an offshoot of realism, to demonstrate that the innovative developments in the construction of narrative and the reassessments of novelistic subject-matter often associated with modernism and postmodernism can actually be traced back to naturalism. My extended introduction discusses the dialogues that have effaced the relevance of naturalism to British literature and seeks to provide a working definition of the genre that can account for the paradoxical definitions offered by naturalism’s founder, Emile Zola. I go on to delineate the characteristics particular to naturalism and argue that the genre opens up new methods for experimentation that have been vital to the development of British literature during the past hundred years. My work attends to a survey of twentieth-century writing and comprises three extended single-author case studies. Each study matches a generic feature of naturalism to a text or texts — James Joyce’s Dubliners with the notion of naturalist entropy, George Orwell’s Burmese Days and Keep the Aspidistra Flying with naturalism’s tendency to create paranoid narratives, J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash with the naturalist gaze — to draw out the diverse ways that these writers have used naturalist principles as means for portraying their cultures. I conclude by examining how naturalism’s legacy has endured into the twenty-first century, observing how the fiction of Ian McEwan negotiates an engagement with the genre by returning to its interest in evolutionary biology. The key finding of my research is that British writers have turned to naturalism as providing the best means for problematizing the notion of endings and of looking at the world like a naturalist in order to access ‘truth’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available