Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Cross-Cultural Encounter and the Novel: Nation, Identity, and Genre in Nineteenth-Century British Literature
by Woo, Chimi, Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2008, 200; 10631387
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation considers cross-cultural encounter represented in the nineteenth-century novel by focusing on the relationships between England's imperial nationalism and the novel. Whereas many postcolonial critics have situated the nineteenth-century novelistic process in the national context of English colonialism and have argued that the novel mainly sustained the hegemonic mode of conceptualization of England's cultural others, I argue that the story of cross-cultural encounters conceives an alternative vision that counters such a hegemonic conceptualization of English subjectivity and its subordinate otherness.

The notion of cross-cultural encounter in my project is differentiated from that of the space of colonial encounter through which the colonizer from the metropolis seeks to assert his superiority and secure his innocence while he is involved with colonial practices. On the contrary, English characters in the texts that I consider experience the sense of guilt, ennui, or uncertainty that is frequently attributed to colonized subjects. Through actual encounter with their cultural others, English characters distance themselves from the dominant cultural order and the imperialist assumptions as to their superiority and engage with other cultures and people. I show how novels suggest the disruption of the claimed cultural hierarchy by addressing the positive alterity of other cultures and hybridity that the dynamics of cross-cultural encounter invoke.

The individual chapters of my dissertation show that while the English nation confronted various other cultures in the nineteenth century, at the same time the novel was also engaged with such issues as the Irish Question, the Jewish Question, and the Indian Question to conceive a different world order in which the meaning and values of the metropolitan center and its peripheries are reconsidered. In five case studies of different subgenres of the novel such as the Irish national tale, the realist novel, the sensation novel, the Gothic novel, and the early modernist novel, I demonstrate that the nineteenth-century novel engages itself with the shared question of English national identity in its relation to cultural others consistently throughout the various subgenres.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Simmons, Clare
Commitee: Garcha, Aman, Riede, David, Simmons, Clare
School: The Ohio State University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: British and Irish literature, Sociology
Keywords: Alterity, Cross-cultural encounter, Genre, Hybridity, National identity, Nineteenth-century British literature
Publication Number: 10631387
ISBN: 978-0-355-01635-2
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