Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The sense and sensibility of the 19th century fantastic
by Hanes, Stacie L., Ph.D., Kent State University, 2013, 189; 3618887
Abstract (Summary)

While studies of fantastic literature have often focused on their structural and genre characteristics, less attention has been paid to the manner in which they address social issues and concerns. Drawing on theoretical, taxonomic, and historical approaches, this study argues that 19th-century England represented a key period of transformation during which fantastic literature evolved away from its folkloristic, mythic, and satirical origins and toward the modern genres of science fiction, feminist fantasy, and literary horror.

The thesis examines the subversive and transformative function of the fantastic in nineteenth-century British literature, particularly how the novel Frankenstein (1831), the poem “Goblin Market” (1862), and the novel Dracula (1897) make deliberate uses of the materials of fantastic literature to engage in social and cultural commentary on key issues of their time, and by so doing to mark a significant transformation in the way fantastic materials can be used in narrative.

Frankenstein took the materials of the Gothic and effectively transformed them into science fiction, not only through its exploration of the morality of scientific research, but more crucially through its critique of systems of education and the nature of learning. "Goblin Market " transformed the materials of fairy tales into a morally complex critique of gender relations and the importance of women's agency, which paved the way for an entire tradition of such redactions among later feminist writers. Dracula draws on cruder antecedents of vampire tales and the novel of sensation to create the first modern literary horror novel, while addressing key emerging anxieties of nationalism and personal identity.

Although historical connections are drawn between these three key works, written at different points during the nineteenth century, it does not argue that they constitute a single identifiable movement, but rather that each provided a template for how later writers might adapt fantastic materials to more complex literary, social, and didactic ends, and thus provided a groundwork for the more complex modern uses of the fantastic as a legitimate resource for writers concerned with not only sensation, but significant cultural and social concerns.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Davis, Kathe
Commitee: Bracher, Mark, Davis, Kathe, Grimm, Pamela, Hassler, Donald, Shaw, Margaret, Williams, Linda
School: Kent State University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Folklore, British and Irish literature
Keywords: 19th-century fantasy, Fantastika, Fantasy, Frankenstein, Goblins, Rossetti, christina, Shelley, mary, Stoker, bram, Vampires
Publication Number: 3618887
ISBN: 978-1-303-87433-8
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