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Ponder and believe: interpretive experiments in Victorian literary fantasies

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Allison Cooper Davis (Creator)
Institution
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Advisor
Mary Ellis Gibson

Abstract: This dissertation examines experimental Victorian fantasy novels in order to provide an alternate history for the Victorian era, one traditionally associated with the realist novel. Texts are discussed using fantasy theory, reader-response criticism, and rhetorical philosophy in order to demonstrate how literary belief influences the moral project of experimental Victorian novelists. First, a review of literature introduces the reader to the major ideas and problems of fantasy texts. Then, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is used to exemplify the relationship between the fantastic author and her reader. The first few chapters, then, explain the theory of reading fantasy that will be examined in the rest of the project. The following three chapters discuss the experimental nature of Sara Coleridge's Phantasmion: Prince of Palmland (1837); George MacDonald's Phantastes (1858); and Jean Ingelow's Mopsa, the Fairy (1869). The focus is on how these authors manipulated readers' expectations for a fairy tale in order to use the trope of childlike wonder as a reading strategy that would encourage interpretive inquiry about the unity of the fantastic and the material. The primary thesis is that these authors use theories about literary belief (derived from Romantic influences) to structure their texts and to guide readers in how to read experimental fantasy work. The dissertation concludes with a chapter that explains how critics could understand further the intersection of fantasy and realism during the nineteenth century and could begin to view them as part of a unified Victorian tradition rather than as incommensurable modes.

Additional Information

Publication
Dissertation
Language: English
Date: 2009
Keywords
Coleridge, Fantasy and the fantastic, George MacDonald, Jean Ingelow, Literary belief, Victorian novel
Subjects
English literature $y 19th century.
Fantasy in literature.
Literature, experimental $y 19th century.
Fairy tales in literature.
Realism in literature.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, $d 1772-1834.
MacDonald, George, $d 1824-1905.
Coleridge, Sara, $d 1802-1952.
Ingelow, Jean, $d 1820-1897.