University of Illinois at Chicago
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Narrator's Character: Personality and the Subject of Narration in the English Novel

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posted on 2023-12-01, 00:00 authored by Hanna Khan
The dissertation examines the narrative and ideological capacities of the English realist novel. Though the generic conventions of this novel form follow diachronic narration, an uninterrupted temporal continuum, and a depersonalized narrator, the mid-nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novels analyzed herein challenge the literary assumptions and hegemonic commitments of realist narration by aestheticizing the social, historical, or political stakes of the narrative. The literary ambitions of nineteenth-century realism, moreover, bear a striking resemblance to the nineteenth-century solidification of historical discourse and to the nineteenth-century literary designation of third-person, omniscient narration. Indeed, with the realist novel’s fictional, and historical discourse’s nonfictional, counterparts locating the ideal, but elusive, narrative standpoint in the objective expression of the narrator or historian, the inherent subjectivity of the narrative position offsets an otherwise unsustainable, if not conflicting, aim for literary objectivity. Thus, by identifying both a shared goal and a resultant narrative impasse in nineteenth-century realist fiction and historical writing, all three novelists—William M. Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, and Joseph Conrad—turn to a personalized rendering of the narrator to mitigate the automatically progressive narratives of ideological, institutional, or materialist formation fictionalized in their novels. While the aesthetic mobilization of critique calls attention to certain ideologies of the period like midcentury liberalism as detailed in Trollope’s The Warden; or the contradictory, omniscient register of letter and print culture in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, or the nascent development of modernity and material interests in Conrad’s Nostromo, all three authors aestheticize the generative capacities of the narrative and discursive functionalities in order to flesh out larger claims about nineteenth- and twentieth-century culture and society. Their narrators, more or less, remain integral to such an ambition.



Nasser Mufti



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Mark Canuel Peter Coviello Sunil Agnani Junaid Quadri

Thesis type



  • en

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