Snapshots from the cultural history of taste

2011-01-10T11:29:30Z (GMT) by Charlotte Stevens
This thesis explores the cultural, or literary history of taste as a social construct. Taking the mid-eighteenth century as its starting point, the thesis adopts an historicist approach to five very particular texts from this vast history. It begins by focusing on three novels: firstly, Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749) which was published at a time when there was increasing pressure to create 'standards' of taste; secondly, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1811) which belongs to a moment that scrutinised these 'standards'; and thirdly, Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist (1837), which reflects an era in which taste is driven by commercial forces. The final chapters explore a significant twentieth-century development in the history of taste: namely, the adaptation of text into film. Here, David Lean's Oliver Twist (1948) and Tony Richardson's Tom Jones (1963) become the focus for close investigation. I argue that Lean's Oliver Twist very much belongs to a post-war Britain in which the acquisition of taste was part of a wider framework for maintaining national and social cohesion. Richardson's Tom Jones, I argue, must be read in relation to the cultural revolutions in tastet hat dominated the early 1960s.