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Title: Buying the story : transaction and narrative value in Balzac, Dostoevsky and Zola
Author: Paine, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 6493 8786
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores narrative as a self-reflexive commentary on the conditions of its own production. It argues that the need for narratives to perform economic functions, such as to provide an income for the author or to promote subscription to a host publication, affects how texts are written. It suggests that this approach is particularly suited to nineteenth-century prose fiction. It proposes a methodology for approaching this analysis based on treating the text as an exchange commodity in a transaction between author and reader whose economic function can be investigated and analysed. The thesis illustrates the application of this approach to major works of three nineteenth-century authors, following the evolution of the book format in France from its subordination to the roman-feuilleton in the late 1830s to its revival as an economically independent format in the 1880s, and contrasting this to the situation in contemporary Russia. A chapter on Balzac, which focusses on Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes, shows how this work can be seen as both a mirror of the rapidly evolving world of publishing during the 1830s and 1840s and as an extended discussion on the constituents of narrative value. It demonstrates how Balzac first adopts, then rejects and parodies, literary devices developed for the rapidly commercialising world of the roman-feuilleton. A chapter on Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, serialised in 1879-80, examines how an author could develop strategies to create literary and economic value within a contemporary readership which was far less developed than that in France. It demonstrates how important literary devices which Dostoevsky uses can be shown to have economic as well as aesthetic effect. The thesis concludes by an analysis of Zola's role in the industrialisation of narrative, which mirrors the rise of the story itself as a key tool of commercialisation. It illustrates this by a discussion of L'Argent (1891) as an allegory of the rise of the story as big business. The thesis promotes the relevance of economic criticism as an underrecognised critical discipline.
Supervisor: Curtis, Julie ; Farrant, Tim Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Balzac ; Dostoevsky ; Zola ; Economic criticism