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Title: Novel Feelings
Authors: Christoff, Alicia Jean
Advisors: Fuss, Diana
Nord, Deborah
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: affect studies
history of psychology
Victorian Literature
Subjects: British and Irish literature
History of science
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: <italic>Novel Feelings</italic> examines the intersection of affective experience and literary form in nineteenth-century realism. Through an exploration of “novel feelings” (new feelings created by the novel form) in the work of George Eliot and Thomas Hardy, I pursue the effects of novelistic representation on the shape of subjectivity. My readings revise existing theories of literary realism by accounting for the constitutive role of complex relational feelings in both constructing a genre and producing a reader. I shift the focus away from the traditional categories of sympathy and sentimentality in order to explore four specific emotions: wishfulness, weariness, loneliness, and restfulness. Each of these novel feelings, I contend, deepens our understanding not only of realism, but also of interpersonal relations and our own reading practices. Looking backwards to early- and mid-nineteenth-century psychology and forward to turn-of-the-century psychoanalysis, my project constructs an intellectual history of the Victorian engagement with emotion. I argue that novelistic representation creates new ways not only of understanding but of experiencing inner life. Each of my four main chapters explores the way a dominant affect works to illuminate the form and style of the realist novel. Wishfulness in <italic>The Mill on the Floss</italic> models the dreamy self-absorption and sudden rude awakening George Eliot at first identifies as the chief mode of literary realism. Weariness in <italic>Middlemarch</italic> describes the exhausting task of understanding others as well as the difficulty of the novel's prose; Eliot makes the reader's fatigue a sign of the ethical labor taking place in and through the novel. Loneliness in <italic>Tess of the D'Urbervilles</italic> speaks to the way we internalize novelistic structures and come to feel like literary characters: we imagine that others are with us, narrating and experiencing our lives alongside us, even when we are alone. Restfulness in <italic>The Return of the Native</italic> describes the aesthetic experience of reading the novel when we feel relaxed enough to let the line between personal experience and objective description remain blurry. Together, these four affects are not simply incidental to the novel, but form the basis of a new theory of reading and feeling in Victorian realism.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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