Romance in the prose of Robert Louis Stevenson
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This thesis provides a wide-ranging account of the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, tracing an unyielding preoccupation with the mode of romance throughout his famously diverse body of writing. It argues that Stevenson’s prose retools romance in several important ways; these include modernization, disenchantment, and the reinterpretation of romance as a practical force able to reach beyond textual confines in order to carve out long-lasting psychological pathways in a reader. In its pursuit of these arguments, the thesis draws upon and appends a significant amount of archival material never before used, including excerpts from The Hair Trunk – Stevenson’s first extended piece of fiction, still unpublished in English. More widely, it analyses the appearance of romance within four major aspects of Stevenson’s prose: aesthetic theme, structure, setting, and heroism, each of which is the focus of a discrete chapter. The introduction engages with the history and definition of romance itself, arguing that it is most usefully approached as mode rather than genre in the context of Stevenson’s writing. Chapter I then assesses Stevenson’s direct critical engagement with romance, and appraises his wider literary aesthetic in that light. Romance is shown to be built in to the way he writes about writing, adventure being intrinsic to his authorial quest for adequate expression. Chapter II goes on to examine Stevenson’s relationship with structure, and argues that self-reflexivity interacts with romance to form the habitual core of his creative writing. Chapter III investigates the use of cities, forests and seas as sites of modern romance within Stevenson’s oeuvre, arguing that he eschews descriptive Romanticism and instead lauds a primarily practical approach towards the navigation of these environments. Finally, Chapter IV demonstrates Stevenson’s perception of a relationship between authorship and the heroic, charting his use of romance as part of a progressive evocation of the failure of heroism itself as a sustainable modern ideal.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-10-30
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 30th October 2023
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