Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Abstract

An unprecedented and staggering wealth of characters floods the Victorian novel with its rich social representation of the nineteenth century. in reading these capacious narratives that seemingly accumulate objects, plots, and people, critics continuously privilege plot and minimize or dismiss the intricate participation of minor characters in the construction of meaning. Studies of literary characterization have classically struggled to articulate a theory of character that moves beyond reductive dichotomies€”flat or round, major or minor€”but that does not become inflated and cumbersome. Despite a lack of comprehensive critical attention, minor characters are no minor matter, and the brevity of their textual lives heightens their thematic import and rhetorical significance. This dissertation deploys a hybrid methodology by drawing upon textual studies, history of the book, and rhetorical narrative theory in a study of minorness and minor characters. Each chapter interrogates a level of Seymour Chatman's foundational narrative communication model€”real author[implied author(narrator-narratee)implied reader]real reader€”and how minor characters are implicated from the innermost layer as tellers and listeners to the contested space of the implied author to the outermost agents. as the truncated characterization of minor characters engages the readerly imagination in an act of inference, an impulse to fill the gaps of their existence, minor characters move readers beyond the novel's material boundaries to consider the social agents embroiled in the novel's creation, distribution, and reception from author and publisher to reading communities connected across time and space. in the €œinterconnections between far flung lives€ (Levine 123), minor characters offer us a polyphonic aesthetic site within narratives that reflects lived social structures and suggests the possibility of their disruption. Minor characters appear as the €œinfinitesimal parts€ of a complex and fragile social structure within which we are intricately connected and similarly vulnerable.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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