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Title: Novel Subjects: Nineteenth-Century Fiction and the Transformation of British Subjecthood
Authors: VanSant, Cameron
Advisors: Nord, Deborah E
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: British Novel
Legal History
Nineteenth-century literature
Subjects: English literature
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Novel Subjects: Nineteenth-Century Fiction and the Transformation of British Subjecthood examines the nineteenth-century novel’s engagement with a critical legal-historical narrative. Whereas eighteenth-century colonialism led administrators to employ flexible definitions of British subjecthood as it applied abroad, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, subjecthood, as it applied at home, was a lifelong status almost always assigned at birth; becoming a naturalized subject was rare, and casting off subjecthood was impossible under the doctrine of "indelible allegiance." Over the century, however, legislation made the status of a British subject a category that many individuals could move in and out of at will. Whereas the Aliens Act (1844) facilitated naturalization, the Naturalization Act (1870) made it possible for British subjects to become aliens, ending indelible allegiance. In Novel Subjects, I show how Walter Scott’s Waverley (1814), Charlotte Brontë Shirley (1849), George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876), and three novels by Anthony Trollope—Barchester Towers (1857), The Eustace Diamonds (1871-73), and The Prime Minister (1875-76)—illuminate key concepts in nineteenth-century nationality, including allegiance, naturalization, and cross-national marriages, exposing complexities that the broad brushstrokes of legal and political literature often cover over. For the novels highlight the experience of individuals rather than assign them to categories; explore the resonances of language rather than establish or elaborate definitions; and imagine the consequences of societal changes rather than effect immediate reform by statute.
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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