The tragic novel : heroism and the politics of modernity

Moses, Michael Valdez, Department of English, University of Virginia
Langbaum, Robert, Department of English, University of Virginia
Sokel, Walter H., Department of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Virginia

While many critics have analyzed individual novels as tragic, my dissertation provides the first theoretical consideration of the tragic novel as a genre. Drawing upon such theorists as Hegel, Lukacs, Adorno, and Bakhtin, I analyze how the conception of tragedy has been transformed, broadened, and at times distorted as it moved from the drama to the novel and from aristocratic to bourgeois settings. As Don Quixote shows, the novel began as a comic form. Cervantes recognized that the historical and political conditions which had in the past provided the basis for the epic stature of the aristocratic hero were giving way to the prosaic realities. of the modern world. Novelists in the eighteenth century had even greater difficulty finding heroic subject matter. Those who attempted to write tragic novels, such as Richardson and Goethe, were forced to redefine tragedy so that it lost its political or public dimension and became a domestic or private phenomenon. This strain of domestic tragedy was developed further in the nineteenth century by writers such as George Eliot, but Stendhal inaugurated a new tradition in the novel which instead of redefining tragedy in subjective terms sought to recapture the objective basis of traditional tragedy. Concentrating on The Red and the Black, Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, Conrad's Lord Jim, and Mann's Doctor Faustus, my dissertation studies the revival of the political dimension of traditional tragedy in the modern novel.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Tragic, The, Fiction -- History and criticism, Plots (Drama, novel, etc.) -- Political aspects, Heroes in literature
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