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The politics of place : the location of rank, class and gender in the novels of Frances Burney
thesisposted on 30.11.2010, 11:45 by Elizabeth K. Sandall
The thesis consists of an introduction; two contextualising chapters, the first historical, the second biographical; and separate chapters on each of Frances Burney's four novels, ordered by date of publication. It situates Burney's fiction in the framework of the shift in forms of social stratification from structures of rank to those of class; a process of change which was particularly acute when Burney was writing. It argues that the dynamics of this transition are foregrounded in her carefully panoramic narratives. While Burney delineates an emergent modernity for her readers, she does not simply celebrate it. With the simultaneous promotion of traditional relationships, Burney's novels rather evidence the contradictions and ambivalences inherent in a period of social transformation. The introduction positions this approach in relation to modern Burney scholarship, and argues that the recent, almost exclusive, concentration on issues of femininity has failed to account for or explain many central aspects of her fiction. The first chapter is an account of the displacement of categories of rank by those of class. It charts the transformation of attitudes to patronage and the concomitant shift in gender definitions, the development of new kinds of statusmarkers, the related emergence of English nationalism, and the importance of certain geographical locations to the process of change: all are key phenomena in Burney's narratives. The second chapter explores the complex social position which Burney was writing from. It contrasts parts of the surviving sections of her father's autobiography - which she suppressed - with her own published substitute, the Memoirs of Dr , exploring the different strategies deployed in texts charting the same social rise, yet written at different points in the transition from structures of rank to those of class. The last four chapters trace these themes through each novel in turn, considering the construction and representation of social status, the depiction of the patron/client relationship, and the implications of the setting, in order to trace the gradual impact of the advent of class on Burney's fiction.
- The Arts, English and Drama
- English and Drama