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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 05/03/2024
AbstractLong considered a formal paradox, a formal antinomy, the form of the novel has its genesis in the conditions of incarceration and solitary confinement. Traversing distinctions of national canon, period, or era, the novel form includes a great number of novelists who have done time in prison. In Don Quixote, one of the great progenitors of the novel, Miguel de Cervantes discusses the prison as the birthplace of the novel form. From this declaration of the novel’s incarcerated origins, this study engages with novels written by novelists who have also done time. Through a consideration of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit (1855-1857), Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from a Dead House (1860-1862), and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (1938), this study investigates the formal, life-saving properties of the novel through the lens of incarceration and isolation. Specifically, I argue that the novel is a structural hinge—another type of antimony as a form that both anchors and moves. The novel’s hinged structure, I claim, was born out of isolation and at times the solitary confinement of novelists who have been incarcerated. Through a phenomenological and formal analysis bolstered by the works of Lisa Guenther, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Caroline Levine, Margaret Doody, and Stuart Grassian among other phenomenologists and formalist critics, I demonstrate that built into the novel’s formal genetics is a subjectivity-preserving, world-providing joint—a joint denied humans and novelists alike in solitary confinement. That the multiplicity and mutability of the novel form has, in part, come from conditions of deprivation, rigidity, and monotony is due to the disintegration incarceration and isolation have on an existent’s relationship with as well as access to the self, other intersubjects, and the world. In conditions of confined isolation, the self becomes unhinged without a worldly anchor and without hinged movement and relationality with another subjectivity. Through this deprivation and through these conditions of absence, I argue, the abundance, dexterity, and bounty of the novel form was born.
Degree ProgramGraduate College