The novelist in the novel: representations of literary authorship in fiction 1850-1950 [thesis]

Elizabeth King
2019
This dissertation provides the first comprehensive account of the phenomenon of the fictional novelist as a character in literature. By identifying trends in a large corpus of author-stories and analysing representative texts, I offer a theory which elucidates the forms and functions of author-stories and the characters within them. I argue that author-stories act as textual sites at which questions of literary value and cultural conceptions of the author and the novel are constantly negotiated
more » ... and revised by authors. The dissertation focuses on the years between 1850 and 1950, a pivotal period in literary history during which authorship was becoming increasingly professionalised, and the novel was rapidly gaining the cultural and critical significance which culminated in its institutionalisation as a subject of university study, and in the founding of prestigious literary awards. I argue that author-stories rise to prominence during the second half of the nineteenth century, as novelists were attempting to frame their work as a profession deserving of legal rights and remuneration, but were also championing the novel's moral, intellectual, and artistic qualities. The dominant narrative of late Victorian author-stories is a binary in which struggling and starving writers clash with the unscrupulous authors, editors, and publishers who produce shallow commercial fiction. During the reign of literary modernism, however, the dominant narrative shifts to focus on the individual author-as-Artist, now entirely aloof from the marketplace and the literary sphere. Attendant to this broader concern is a consideration of the way that gender becomes inextricably entangled with this dichotomy of commercial and artistic value. I explore the extent to which representations of female authorship which circulated around the turn of the twentieth century tended to affirm the association of women writers with the low-brow and the commercial, whilst representations of male authorship have frequently strengthened the pervasive view th [...]
doi:10.26190/unsworks/3870 fatcat:pswaftmsdzaxdpd2oakpxtfkyq