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Title: Playing modern : essaying, 1880-1920, Wilde, Chesterton, Woolf
Author: Tippin, Robert Eric
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 5510
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Between 1880 and 1920, both urban England and essays published in urban England underwent seismic shifts and splits, as population grew, education and technology advanced, and periodical publishing expanded. The city grew both larger in size and smaller in units of comprehensibility, and many of its people were (or were perceived by certain thinkers to be) less free and more instrumental. The periodical essay too grew more common and, at the same time, smaller in size, less free, and more instrumental, as it developed closer ties with journalism, with the industrial city, and with readers of all classes. By an examination of various forms of essaying in the period, this thesis argues that the essay's transitions parallel modernity's transitions, not only because the essay reflects or enacts or follows trends in modernity, but also because modernity at the time was conditioned by the essay's way of thinking through its form and cannot be fully understood without reference to the activities of the urban periodical essay at the time. The essay between 1880 and 1920 was a highly social genre, and this sociability manifested in a number of ways this thesis will explore. Its periodical context allowed it a ritual, patterning relationship with its readers; its brevity and limitations pushed it into dialectical, double-glancing modes of thought that complemented its fragmented setting; its tendency to direct attention away from its own form gave it a unique, constitutive role in literary modernisms; its material connections to new technologies implicated it in new doubts concerning urban modernity, and its massed readership embroiled it in fears over anti- or a-intellectual over-simplification. This thesis tells the stories of the periodical essay, in London, as an actor in modernity's transitions, by examining four concepts central to both the essay and to emergent modernity: play, the trick, doubt, and wisdom. These concepts are treated, primarily, through the work of three writers-Oscar Wilde, G. K. Chesterton, and Virginia Woolf-all of whom, in their styling of the essay, embody different moments and essayistic registers in the transitions of modernity and reveal the cross-fertilising relationship between essaying and what is meant by 'the modern'.
Supervisor: Hurley, Michael Damian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Oscar Wilde ; G. K. Chesterton ; Virginia Woolf ; 1880-1920 ; periodicals ; literary form ; modernity ; the essay ; periodical