Date of Award

5-1-2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

Collins, K.K.

Second Advisor

Boulukos, George

Abstract

My dissertation charts the transatlantic nineteenth-century novel's subtle revisions to the traditional marriage plot, in terms of both narrative and form, identifying a gradual shift in the way marriage was fictionalized. I argue that incremental revisions to the marriage plot reconstruct positive representations of female marital experience into negative depictions that transform marriage into a form of institutionalization that leads to psychological and bodily trauma. I reveal the development of a collective trauma narrative that underscores the nineteenth-century woman's experience living inside society's oppressive marital culture. The novel serves as the body of cultural work that both represents and shapes women's marital experiences inside a society that legally forced them to surrender their identity, person, and property to their husband, as well as socially holding them to a much higher standard of propriety and obedience. In specific chapters, I create transatlantic pairings that trace the novel's troubled efforts to free itself and its heroines from the constraints of the marriage plot which reflect women's inability to do so in real life.

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