Popular Accounts: The Form of Justice in the British Novel

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Johns Hopkins University, 2008 - 225 pages
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In "Popular Accounts: The Form of Justice in the British Novel," I examine the tensions between the democratic ideal of popular representation and the liberal ideal of individual agency and accountability. While the rise of the novel and the rise of the individual have been seen to go hand in hand, in this dissertation I emphasize the importance of social aggregates both in the nineteenth-century political imagination and the novels that helped to give it shape. I argue that in the first half of the nineteenth century individual representation was accompanied by a countervailing notion of the representative individual and I make this case by examining Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Each of these novels deals with the possibility of---and the problems entailed by---seeing individuals as representative members of larger populations (families, classes, nations) and abstract systems (market economies, public cultures, spirits of the age).

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