AuthorsBest, Aline M.
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AbstractThe country is an element within all the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell, in her letters, short stories and novels, even the 'condition-of-England' novels set within the city, and The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Yet, it is an aspect of her writing which has suffered from relative critical neglect. It is, therefore, an interesting and appropriate choice of subject for a dissertation for the M.A. in Literary Studies: 'The Country and the City'. The Introduction, after indicating the significance of Gaskell's letters in relation to the country, gives reasons for the selection of the short stories as the basis of the study of Gaskell's depiction of the country, together with the novel, Sylvia's Lovers, which is closest in stance and technique to the portrayal of country life in the short stories and also offers an interesting contrast between life in the country and the town. Reference is also made to other texts wherever appropriate. The study is essentially text-based, as a means of examining in depth Gaskell's subtlety as a writer. The chapter, 'The Country in the Letters', explores the extent to which Gaskell's letters reveal her lifelong love of the countryside and empathy with country people, as well as indicating early literary influences and evidencing many of the techniques found in her fictional writing. The next chapter, 'The Country in the Short Stories', after discussing the influence of Wordsworth, considers the element of social history within Gaskell's fictionalisation, before turning to the significance of the countryside as setting, the inherent characteristics of country people and realist techniques. The following chapter, 'The Country and the Town in Sylvia's Lovers' after treating the background to the work and certain key elements, analyses Gaskell's use of the country setting, her depiction of the principal country characters and her realist techniques, before considering the contrast between country and town, particularly in relation to Sylvia Robson's life after her marriage. The final chapter, 'The Country in the Writings of Elizabeth Gaskell: an Overview', summarises the significance of the portrayal of the country in the works studied in detail, while touching upon the difference in perspective in North and South and Wives and Daughters. The chapter concludes that: 'through the breadth of her picture, the acuity of her observation and her engagement, Gaskell's depiction of the countryside and country people is unique in nineteenth century English literature'.
TypeThesis or dissertation
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