Thesis

"And I too change perpetually-now this, now that": negotiating space, community, individuality and mobility with Elizabeth Gaskell's realism and modernity

Elizabeth Gaskell, as a Victorian realist writer, often focuses on descriptions of settings and the exterior world. Through diverse and varied settings, she reveals the influences of rapid social change after the Industrial Revolution. At the same time, such depictions can actually reveal interior character because individuals must interact with and negotiate with the social construction of social space. While environment impacts character development, the opposite also occurs. Individuals subtly negotiate with the influences of space and community, with the oftenunacknowledged influences exerted by a particular area’s culture. The greater scope of Gaskell’s work depicts states of flux and change, where traditional value systems and communal relationships transform and shift with the broader changes of modernizing England. In order to explore the manner in which Gaskell addresses and reveals these alterations, this thesis engages interconnected aspects of spatial conception, community, individuality, and mobility. Gaskell reveals the modernizing effects of new social and physical mobility, and presenting such dual mobility in her work allows a modern perspective for both the characters of Gaskell’s fiction and for her readers. This thesis therefore explores the manner through which she depicts spatial relationships and emphasizes her focus on individual mobility. Mobile individuals negotiate changing spatial and communal dynamics through their ability to inhabit multiple spaces and engage multiple viewpoints.

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