Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

M. Keith Booker

Committee Member

Sean A. Dempsey

Second Committee Member

Joseph Candido

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; Ideology; Marxism; Novel; Realism; Utopia

Abstract

In this volume, I have examined a number of works of nineteenth-century realist fiction from England and Russia, using the double interpretive method recommended by Fredric Jameson in The Political Unconscious. In particular, I have employed the dialectical double hermeneutic suggested by Jameson, who argues that the most productive approach to literary texts is to consider them from the double perspective of ideology and utopia. That is, critics should approach literary texts by seeking out the ideological roots that lie beneath the textual surface and from which the texts grow, while at the same time keeping a careful eye out for the (often well hidden) utopian longings and visions that also inform all works of literature.

Among the English works of fiction I examine, I find that the obvious (liberal) utopian leanings of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton (1848) and Charles Dickens’ Hard Times (1854) are severely limited by the bourgeois ideology that pervades both texts. Similarly, the (conservative) utopian projects of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Overcoat” (1842) and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866) are limited by the presence of bourgeois ideology in the texts. Thus, in bourgeois-dominated England, bourgeois ideology exerts a conservative force, while in still-feudal Russia bourgeois ideology is a progressive, even radical force that works against the prevailing ideology of the society. I also discuss Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886) and Jude the Obscure (1895), both of which seem pessimistic, but which in fact contain strong utopian energies when read through the optic of Marxist historicism, supplemented by the existentialist philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre is also useful as a supplement to Marxist analysis in my readings of the utopian energies in Dostoevsky’s short novel Notes from Underground (1864) and of Leo Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886). Together these readings demonstrate the flexibility of Jameson’s double hermeneutic by showing that it can be applied to texts in which the fundamental forces of ideology and utopia operate in a variety of different ways, due to differences not only in the texts, but in the historical contexts of the texts being read.

Share

COinS