Epistolary Encounters : Diary and Letter Pastiche in Neo-Victorian Fiction.

Brindle, Kym Michelle (2010) Epistolary Encounters : Diary and Letter Pastiche in Neo-Victorian Fiction. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis examines the significance of a ubiquitous presence of fictional letters and diaries in neo-Victorian fiction. It investigates how intercalated documents fashion pastiche narrative structures to organise conflicting viewpoints invoked in diaries, letters, and other addressed accounts as epistolary forms. This study concentrates on the strategic ways that writers put fragmented and found material traces in order to emphasise such traces of the past as fragmentary, incomplete, and contradictory. Interpolated documents evoke ideas of privacy, confession, secrecy, sincerity, and seduction only to be exploited and subverted as writers idiosyncratically manipulate epistolary devices to support metacritical agendas. Underpinning this thesis is the premise that much literary neo-Victorian fiction is bound in an incestuous relationship with Victorian studies. This can be identified and analysed in works that metafictionally and self-consciously engage the nineteenth century. My study therefore examines a diverse critical awareness refracted through epistolary strategies, investigating how neo-Victorian writers collaborate with or contest critical ideologies by way of perceptual and interpretative manipulation afforded by both diaries and letters. Diary form particularly refracts reflexive critical commentary on the novel and its processes and this study consequently sustains a greater focus on diaries than letters as strategic narrative devices in neo-Victorian fiction. In five chapters, I examine five novels by writers who share a common characteristic of critical, theoretical, and academic backgrounds. Chapter one investigates how A. S. Byatt's Possession: A Romance (1990) employs techniques of epistolary seduction to support a critique of fictional academics who construct Victorians to fit their own critical agendas. Chapter two considers the ways in which Sarah Waters's novel, Affinity (1999), parodically foregrounds the Foucauldian 'gaze' with two diarists and secret letters that engage critical discourses of Victorian sexualities and nineteenth-century spiritualism. Chapter three examines Alias Grace (1996) to consider Margaret Atwood's interrogation of the textual re-construction of past lives by way of a diary-style voice. Chapter four discusses Katie Roiphe's 2001 novel, Still She Haunts Me, which plays to contemporary unease about Charles Dodgson's relationship with Alice Liddell by exploiting archival gaps with invented diary entries that eulogise desire. My final chapter explores Mick Jackson's The Underground Man (1997), which interpolates a diary with 'official accounts' in a form of textual autopsy that defends personal liberty and an eccentric viewpoint against communal testimony. This study demonstrates that neo-Victorian writers use documents creatively to interrogate history and our understanding of it in diverse strategic and intertextual ways. My study is grounded in theories of pastiche and builds on Linda Hutcheon's work on historiographic metafiction. It is also informed by the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, whose discussion of heteroglossia coincides with theories of diary form's dialogic doublevoicedness outlined by Lorna Martens's work, The Diary Novel (1985). My study investigates the intertextual processes of metafiction in neo-Victorianism as an area that has as yet received little critical attention, with no specific investigation of epistolary forms in the genre.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2010.
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Deposited On:
02 May 2019 16:25
Last Modified:
26 Sep 2023 00:29