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Theses Doctoral

Depressive Realism: Readings in the Victorian Novel

Smallwood, Christine

This dissertation makes two arguments: First, it elaborates a depressive genealogy of the Victorian novel that asserts a category of realism rooted in affect rather than period or place. Second, it argues for a critical strategy called "depressive reading" that has unique purchase on this literary history. Drawing on Melanie Klein's "depressive position," the project asserts an alternative to novel theories that are rooted in sympathy and desire. By being attentive to mood and critical disposition, depressive reading homes in on the barely-contained negativities of realism. Through readings of novels by William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hardy, and Charlotte Brontë, it explores feelings of ambivalence, soreness, and dislike as aesthetic responses and interpretations, as well as prompts to varieties of non-instrumentalist ethics. In the final chapter, the psychological and literary strategy of play emerges as a creative and scholarly possibility.

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Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Dames, Nicholas
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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