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Title: Prosaic Times: Time as Subject in Wordsworth, Richardson, Flaubert, and Melville
Authors: Park, John
Advisors: Brodsky, Claudia J
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: Prose
Subjects: Comparative literature
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation, entitled “Prosaic Times: Time as Subject in Wordsworth, Richardson, Flaubert, and Melville,” examines literary works of realism—the artistic claim to represent life as it is—that do not necessarily depend upon the plotline of the story they tell but on the sense of time that their style generates. Most noticeable in the works examined— Wordsworth’s epic blank verse narrative of first-person experience, The Prelude; the first-person, epistolary accounts of experience composing the first “realist” and longest English-language novel, Richardson’s Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady; Flaubert’s highly stylized representation of substance experienced in the complete absence of style, the experience of the “simple” life narrated in his “Un Coeur Simple;” and the alternately lyric and encyclopedic novel, Moby Dick, or the Whale, an epic in which, narratively speaking, very little happens—is that the plot of these works are unremarkable and out of sync with the extensive and intensive development of the writing involved in their narration. This dissertation claims that the reduced significance placed on plot in these works is counterbalanced by something else: a quality of temporal experience different from linear time. The active quality of language, of what narrative discourse says and does in forming our understanding of real things and events, is brought directly to the reader’s attention in these works. In the natural objects and “scenes” of experience Wordsworth describes; the dense, temporally overlapping exchange of accounts both of purposefully misled, first impressions and disguised, misleading intentions, as well as the disclosure of these over time, composed in “real time” by Richardson’s several epistolary authors; the depiction of the quotidian ways of a village and of a life lived in service of other lives in that village, from the point of view of a subject to whom nothing but the relentless reduction of life happens, by Flaubert; and the boundless occasion for “timeless” metaphysical reflections and physical domain of an elusive, literally unfathomable creature of innumerable 19th-century industrial uses, that the sea represents in Melville, narration not only “takes” but makes time part of the experience it represents.
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:Comparative Literature

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