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Appears in Collections:eTheses from Faculty of Arts and Humanities legacy departments
Title: An examination of public and private worlds in modern American literature
Author(s): Ross, Mary
Issue Date: 1975
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis examines American novels written between 1890 and 1975 from the point of view of their formal and structural aspects and considers the implications arising from the manner in which they are deployed within the context of individual works. The phrase ’public and private worlds' was formulated to describe these aspects. The ’public world’ of a novel is the environment in which the characters have their existence and comprises places, physical objects and that area of tacitly agreed norms, society. Where groups of characters are instrumental in translating these norms into pressures upon the individual, then they too are considered as a part of the public world. 'Private worlds' are defined as those aspects of the fiction seen as belonging to a specific character) his words, thoughts, actions and emotions, and all these taken together as his consciousness, are considered as the private world. The phrase public and private worlds is a dichotomy only in the sense that it refers to two defined components of the novel; the 'worlds' are not assumed to be diametrically opposed. Indeed, this thesis is largely about the varied ways in which authors relate them. The weighting given to each side of the dichotomy in individual novels is considered and the resultant 'balance' described as the 'overall fictional reality’, a term which takes into account the effect which the combination of public and private worlds has upon the reader. Whilst the aim of this thesis is primarily analytic, the overall fictional reality is evaluated on the grounds of its coherence, subtlety and artistic merit, all factors which emerge naturally from the application of the dichotomy. The dichotomy may, of course, be used to analyse novels of any period or culture. American novels written over the past nine decades present a considerable challenge to its validity as a critical tool, for they vary widely in style, content and artistic worth and provide a 'fictional' mirror of the vast social changes occurring during this period. In order to present a further challenge to the dichotomy and to give the discussion extended scope, each chapter deals with different configurations of books, ranging from the works of a single author to those sharing nothing more than a coincidence of setting. Thus, it is the intention of this thesis both to test the worth of 'public and private worlds' as an aid to analysis and to show that this particular, formal relationship is crucial to American fiction.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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