Date of Award

12-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Todd Thompson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Tanya Heflin, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Jim Cahalan, Ph.D.

Abstract

I argue that a number of novels are not appreciated for their radical critiques of Western ideologies. I critique the way that society often compels individuals into conformity. Conformity, these novels show, represses the more authentic and organic feelings, desires, and behaviors that could allow for individuals to experience greater self-fulfillment. The rebellious canon—represented here particularly in novels by Roth, Lawrence, Hardy, Ellison, and Emily Brontë and (more briefly) a few other authors—encourages readers to develop their own ideological proprioceptors. To that end, these novels dramatize various trajectories. One way of looking at these trajectories lies in the conceptual model of a spectrum. The spectrum of rebellious novels, for example, may be described by the success of their characters to reject the reigning, repressive ideologies. Thus, on one side of the spectrum, there lie the unsuccessful characters who fall victim to the dangerous ideological forces; such characters end in death, madness, or misery. Moving along that spectrum, there are those characters who experience some form of unhappiness or relative discontent. Moving a bit further along, there are characters who feel the bliss of ignorant conformity, but who are merely repressed without recognizing it. Then, at the other end, there are those characters who are able to reject the systems of thought that inhibit their organic development. Such characters may find deeply satisfying, organic, authentic identities that allow them to achieve greater fulfillment. Therefore, I argue that authentic, organic identity is possible through the Lawrentian-based concept of a naked self. Those characters who succumb to the conformity complex are described as repressed selves. Characters who reject the pressures of conformity are described as transgressive selves. Those who find that, in order to fully reject the oppressiveness of conformity, they must hide their transgressions while outwardly feigning conformity are described as invisible selves. Finally, readers who come to recognize the significance for their own lives of these avenues of resistance and undergo their own “revaluation of all values,” as Nietzsche terms it, may be deemed rebellious selves. Rebellious novels, I argue, encourage readers to reject the compulsions of conventional ideologies and seek out their own, authentic identities.

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