Year of Publication

2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Zunshine

Abstract

My dissertation argues that fiction produced in England during the frequent financial crises and political volatility experienced between 1770 and 1820 both reflected and shaped the cultural anxiety occasioned by a seemingly random and increasingly uncertain world. The project begins within the historical framework of the multiple financial crises that occurred in the late eighteenth century: seven crises took place between 1760 and 1797 alone, appearing seemingly out of nowhere and creating a climate of financial meltdown. But how did the awareness of economic turbulence filter into the creative consciousness? Through an interdisciplinary focus on cultural studies and behavioral economics, the dissertation posits that in spite of their conventional, status quo affirming endings (opportunists are punished, lovers are married), novels and plays written between 1770 and 1820 contemplated models of behavior that were newly opportunistic, echoing the reluctant realization that irrationality had become the norm rather than a rare aberration. By analyzing concrete narrative strategies used by writers such as Frances Burney, Georgiana Cavendish, Hannah Cowley, and Thomas Holcroft, I demonstrate that late eighteenth-century fiction both articulates and elides the awareness of randomness and uncertainty in its depiction of plot, character, and narrative.

Share

COinS