Getting Lost: Forms of Animation in the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Novel
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CitationAuerbach, Amanda. 2018. Getting Lost: Forms of Animation in the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Novel. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractIn eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British novels, moments of getting socially, morally, or geographically lost often overlap with those at which characters are overtaken (or animated) by emotions, movements, and thoughts that they fail to understand. The larger claim of this project is that making sense of characters’ experiences of getting lost can illuminate not only the subjectivity of an individual character, but also the consciousness that runs through and can be seen as characterizing an entire genre. My project focuses on four genres of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novel in particular: the marriage-plot novel, the gothic novel, the Victorian Bildungsroman, and the sensation novel.
There has recently been an impulse in novel studies to turn away from “adventures of interiority” carried out by an individual subject founded on agency. Rejecting narratives of amelioration and self-transformation has often meant setting aside an interest in conscious experience and personal identity. We can see this trend reflected in literary criticism, from Sandra McPherson’s consideration of characters as causes rather than consciousnesses to Elisha Cohn’s book about moments of lapsed consciousness. Attending to characters when they get lost shows that consciousness and personal identity are not just attributes of narrative selves that change over time. On the contrary, getting lost leads characters to an awareness of how they are generally apt to think, move, and feel.
These experiences that characters habitually have are consistent across genres of the novel. Each episode of getting lost serves as a template that we then see magnified in the larger structure of events of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British novel to which each episode bears a synecdochal relation. The way the protagonist navigates a physical or social environment when she gets lost resembles her movement over the course of the larger plot. For instance, the character who gets lost in the gothic novel navigates a labyrinthine gloomily-lit castle, which resembles in structure and style the circuitous gothic plot, and the character who gets lost in the sensation novel moves more mechanically through a modernized and well-lit, but equally elaborate edifice. While the gothic novel and the sensation novel contain the most obviously self-referential episodes of getting lost, a similar interplay is at work in the marriage-plot novel and the Victorian Bildungsroman, as well. The heroine of the Victorian Bildungsroman leaves the protection or confinement of her home and becomes part of a larger social world. The heroine who gets lost finds herself flying, floating, or being carried into a crowd (as happens to Margaret Hale) or into the sea (as happens to Maggie Tulliver). The heroine of the marriage plot ends up alone with a man who judges her character, and this is also what happens to her in the episode of getting lost.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41128473
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