Date of Award

5-1-2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

McEathron, Scott

Abstract

The late eighteenth century marks an era where authors began forging identities that rebuffed the influences of the local communities to which they belonged. As literacy increased, so too did the notion of individuality, as members of the middle and lower orders soon saw themselves as separate, independent beings. The crowd, of course, helped simplify the management of complex emotions like anger through mutual demonstration; the greater number of participants in a protest, the more fitting the sense of indignation seemed to be. For cases of personal anger, however, the suitability and expression of the emotion were problematic, especially for those marginalized by gender, status, and political affiliations. While polite society deemed their anger unwarranted, odious, and threatening, subaltern authors simultaneously realized that the continued denial of the passion would cripple individual and artistic development, but excessive expression would yield further ridicule and ostracism. Anger, therefore, stimulated these authors to discover their actual worth as artists and individuals and carve unique identities that completely disregarded the restrictive characterizations assigned by a hierarchical society. Nevertheless, anger’s volatility meant that discovering oneself from a passion commonly represented as a moment “when we are not ourselves” was a particularly precarious endeavor since righteous indignation could quickly ignite into a mindless, destructive rage. Subaltern authors needed to authenticate the legitimacy of their anger to not only a largely unsympathetic audience, but also themselves, and the apparent foreignness of rage created confusion over the passion’s exact relation to the individual; anger is frequently emblematized in contradictions—internal vs. external, activity vs. passivity, sanity vs. insanity, reality vs. fantasy—to emphasize its deceptive fluidity. As this study argues, anger was fundamental to marginalized figures in achieving selfhood, but the passion’s overall instability and the objection by hierarchical society encouraged a literary treatment that was cautious, unique, and at times, clandestine.

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