The ethics of narrative form in Gaskell, Dickens, and Eliot
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This thesis explores Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda through the lens of rhetorical narratology to offer conclusions for realism, metafiction, and the ethics of reading. The thesis highlights the existing gap between narratology and ethics and contributes to developing a framework of ethical narratology. The introduction asks the following research questions: 1. How do fictional narratives invite a response from readers and in what way is this ethical? 2. What are the implications of the interplay between textual and readerly dynamics for the genre of realism? 3. What is the relationship between the ethics of the telling and heterodiegetic (noncharacter) narration? 4. How we can foreground the ethical effects of narratives without veering into empirical methodologies? 5. How can mimetic and synthetic strategies work together to create a more enhanced invitation and reading experience for the reader? The literature review develops the theoretical framework of narrative theory, realism, empathy, and ethics. Chapter three focuses on sympathy, mutual focalization, and intermental thought in North and South. Chapter four explores the misdirections and delayed disclosures that make up the ethics of the telling in Our Mutual Friend. Chapter five demonstrates the ethical consequences of temporal ordering in Daniel Deronda. The conclusion suggests that readers’ judgments of characters, narrators, implied authors, and themselves are the bridge between realism and ethics. Judgment relies on distance created through techniques that are both immersive and defamiliarizing and that accentuate mimetic and synthetic reading strategies. Interaction with these techniques depends on reconfiguration, highlighting the crucial role of readers as agents of closure for the realist novel. Reconfiguration offers ethical rewards which can be discussed through a metahermeneutic language of invitation, expectation, and response. Ultimately, this thesis offers readers a set of tools to negotiate the value of literature.
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