Elevated by Art: Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Literary Ambitions to Transcend Sensation
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CitationShaffner, Jason. 2021. Elevated by Art: Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Literary Ambitions to Transcend Sensation. Master's thesis, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education.
AbstractBy any measure, Mary Elizabeth Braddon was one of the most successful novelists of the Victorian era, publishing more than eighty novels between 1860 and 1915 and earning the title of “queen of the circulating libraries.” Yet her books disappeared from bookshelves within a few years of her death. In recent decades, although scholars have renewed their interest in Braddon’s work and rescued her from obscurity, few have pursued the pivotal role of literary allusion and the physical act of reading by her characters. An irony of Braddon’s career is the degree to which she integrated so many rich literary references into novels that critics condemned for their artlessness. Indeed, this thesis argues that Braddon thoughtfully layers literature into her novels through multiple techniques, including overt references to fictional works, character profiles defined by their reading tastes, the usage of an intrusive narrator, and chapter mottoes that function as meta-fictional clues for the attentive reader to decipher. This thesis demonstrates how Mary Elizabeth Braddon sought to elevate her fiction, producing novels that she intended to be sensational and literary at the same time. Furthermore, this thesis contends that Braddon consciously exploited her popularity and the circulating library paradigm to engage her female readers in questioning prevailing rules on what they should know, what they should read, and how they should behave.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367594
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