Date of Award

7-15-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher Orchard, D.Phil.

Second Advisor

Susan Gatti, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Mike Sell, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation addresses the concept of English national identity as a series of ideological constructs in selected novels by Julian Barnes, Angela Carter, John Fowles, and Jeanette Winterson. To this end, this study includes texts that best reveal the struggle between the various forms of national identity: England, England and Metroland by Julian Barnes; Nights at the Circus and Wise Children by Angela Carter; Daniel Martin and The Magus by John Fowles; and Gut Symmetries and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. Each novel explores the space between the lived experience and the inherited notion of Englishness. By using sociological studies, cultural criticism, and historical analyses, readers can better notice how the abstract affects the concrete and vice versa. This study evaluates the common model of traditional Englishness in relationship with alternative conceptions of national identity through four topics: the Bildungsroman, myth, performance, and the family structure. Each topic allows readers to become aware of ideological processes behind English national identity and, in turn, the ways in which Englishness is constructed to a particular purpose. The traditional Bildungsroman model, for example, depicts the movement towards social appropriateness and, hence, towards appropriate forms of Englishness. Myths often create an unrealistic and empty expectation of England and its people. Individuals perform traditional Englishness in these novels to particular ends. And the traditional Western family model can be read in concert with traditional Englishness to demonstrate how those traditional forms are legitimated. In each novel, traditional forms of Englishness are depicted as problematic and negative. However, alternative Englishnesses do not provide an answer. Instead, the novels depict a range of responses to Englishness that indicate that the choice between traditional and alternative is misleading since all versions of English national identity are merely constructions.

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