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Title page for ETD etd-11302012-180302

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Hines, Emily Bartlett
URN etd-11302012-180302
Title Referential Worlds
Degree PhD
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jay Clayton Committee Chair
Carolyn Dever Committee Member
Lisa Zunshine Committee Member
Mark Wollaeger Committee Member
  • Victorian
  • Condition of England novel
  • social problem novel
  • narratology
  • cognitive literary studies
  • history of the novel
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • Elizabeth Gaskell
  • George Eliot
  • Anthony Trollope
  • Arnold Bennett
  • D.H. Lawrence
  • cognitive mapping
  • conceptual blending
  • realism
  • reference
  • storyworlds
Date of Defense 2012-10-15
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation uses insights from narratology and cognitive literary studies to advance a new theory of reference in fictional texts. While reference to real-world entities is a ubiquitous feature of realist fiction, existing theories of fiction have rarely attempted to account for it. Focusing on the Victorian social-problem novel and its offshoots, I argue that engagement with real-world social and political issues is central to the meaning-making capacity of all narrative fiction.

In the introductory chapter, I argue that readers easily make sense of “ontologically blended” texts that combine fictional and real-world entities. This feature of texts and of the reading process can be accounted for by the pre-existing theory of conceptual blending. In Chapter II, I demonstrate how conceptual blends are central to the success or failure of ostensibly realistic fiction. This chapter contrasts a critically praised realist text, Elizabeth Gaskell's Mary Barton, with an example of failed reference, Edward Bulwar Lytton's Eugene Aram. Referring to existing entities is not enough to ensure that a text will be accepted as realistic or plausible. Chapter III examines the role of convention in fiction. While convention is often assumed to be realism's opposite, recent empirical research on the reading process suggests that some degree of convention is essential for any text to be perceived as referential. This chapter analyzes how two mid-Victorian political novels make use of, and implicitly comment on, existing conventions for representing politics. Finally, Chapter IV examines the function of detailed spatial description in the novel. Often denigrated as a site of pure reference, detailed spatial description is instead one of the novel's key avenues of meaning-making, allowing readers to construct what I term “schematic spatial analogies.” I analyze the unconventional use of description in Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale and D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow to show how description prompts readers to attach meaning

to space.

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