Ageing and Imperial Mobility in the British Novel, 1845-1945

Sohn, Ilsu. Ageing and Imperial Mobility in the British Novel, 1845-1945. 2016. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.
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This dissertation examines representations of ageing in eight British novels from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. The four chapters and one epilogue explore how the novels' rewriting of the Bildungsroman gives rise to novelistic genres or types of writing, such as realism, detective fiction, modernism, and modern satire. I compare and contrast cultural assumptions of the ageing of each novel with those of the Bildungsroman so as to elucidate the ideological logic and contradiction of the novelistic genres that the individual novels represent. Scholars on the Bildungsroman tend to attend primarily to the evolution or variations of the genre in isolation, rather than how the genre has been revisited by other genres for their self-fashioning. This dissertation illustrates how to investigate the emergence and characteristics of novelistic genres while focusing on their constant interaction with each other.

This dissertation also emphasizes historically-modulated spatial conditions for ageing. The modern history of Britain features the earlier and quicker development of capitalist social relations and imperial political-economic expansion. Culturally diverse forms of movement arise in particular moments in this British history of imperial expansion and the development of world-economic system, and enable or limit British subjects' normative ageing depending on their class, gender, ethnicity or other social qualifications. Among distinct forms of imperial movement this dissertation covers are voyages out for financial or military enterprise, the return of gone-native British subjects alongside the reverse 'invasion' of colonial natives, British women's universalizing Western values to imperial peripheries, and the quest for a recuperative power for the Western civilization in distant lands. Investigating narratives of ageing in eight novels by situating them in these contexts of imperial movement, the dissertation illuminates hitherto unnoticed formal and thematic peculiarities of each novel and its genre. Ultimately, this dissertation attempts to establish a methodology to study the history of the British novel.

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Completed/published
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