Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Christopher Orchard, D. Phil.

Second Advisor

Kenneth Sherwood, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Christopher M. Kuipers, Ph.D.


This dissertation examines the ideological power of informal social groups in the Victorian novel. It fills a gap in scholarship on the period, created by the considerable which focuses on official institutions and relationships. Informal ties have gone largely undiscussed in terms of their ideological activity. This project demonstrates how these relationships perpetuate and apply dominant ideologies. It examines three types of relationship. First, it looks at close emotional ties and how they work to remind the individuals involved of class identities and positions. Next, work connections are looked at. These bonds shape personal consciousness and hide the contradiction of capitalist social relations. Finally, how knowledge in informal relationships becomes a tool used to protect class boundaries and privilege is examined. This analysis frames the social groups examined using sociological theory. Close ties are looked at using sociologist Charles Horton Cooley's concept of "primary groups". Robert K. Merton, who developed the sociological concept "professional associations", is employed to analyze work relationships. His idea of Insiders and Outsiders clarifies how dispensing and withholding knowledge preserves class delineations. Theorists Louis Althusser, Göran Therborn and Antonio Gramsci are used to understand ideology and how primary relationships help it gain power. Althusser's work provides a definition of ideology and a basic analysis of the apparatuses that spread it. Therborn expands on Althusser, introducing the concepts of "qualification" and "alter-ideology". Alter-ideology explains how informal social groups understand non-members and how these understandings exert ideological power. Qualification illuminates how the assignment of social roles acts as a mechanism of ideological enforcement. Here, the concept of qualification is extended to its implied inverse, disqualification, to further understand this process. Raymond Williams' theory of "the structure of feeling" sheds light on the ideological work of "professional associations". It describes how working relationships bring individual consciousness into ideological conformity. Antonio Gramsci's analysis of organic intellectuals and hegemony offer critical understanding of how knowledge and explanation garner ideological power. The conclusion of this project briefly examines the ideological action of informal groups in works of the twentieth century along with the challenges involved in studying them.