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Title: Sensation fiction and modernity : narratives of order and ambivalence in mid-Victorian Britain
Author: Green, James Aaron
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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The mid-nineteenth-century genre of sensation fiction is primarily conceived of as articulating modernity through its depiction of sensory experience, especially as such is produced by technologically-generated mobility. Distinctly, this thesis proposes that sensation fiction can be read through an alternative, 'cultural discontinuity' sense of modernity, particularly as this is formulated by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman (in Modernity and Ambivalence [1991]), to reveal its engagements with a variety of mid-century contexts heretofore neglected or omitted in criticism; moreover, doing so broadens our ideas about the texts that can be considered to articulate modernity. The thesis evidences this by historicist readings of four sensation novels, acting as a representative series of case studies (a heuristic) for considering the genre as a whole: Mary Elizabeth Braddon's The Trail of the Serpent (1860); Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's Wylder's Hand (1864); Rhoda Broughton's Not Wisely, but Too Well (1867); and Wilkie Collins's Armadale (1866). Expanding from Bauman's ideas about the role of modern culture, I claim that sensation fiction performs crucial ideological work in acclimatizing readers to the discontinuities of modern existence; even, at its height, tracing a nascent postmodern consciousness, in which ambivalence is no longer a cause for concern. Since scholarship has reserved such a polemical potential for realist novels, this thesis broaches a new understanding of the purpose and function of sensation fiction, with implications for the study of other popular genres.
Supervisor: Wagner, C. ; Mangham, A. Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: sensation fiction ; Victorian sensation novel ; Mary Elizabeth Braddon ; Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu ; Rhoda Broughton ; Wilkie Collins ; The Trail of the Serpent ; Wylder's Hand ; Not Wisely, but Too Well ; Armadale ; Zygmunt Bauman ; modernity ; ambivalence