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Time, Space and Dialogism in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Fiction

CARLE, NAOMI,JANE (2015) Time, Space and Dialogism in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Fiction. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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It is now something of a commonplace to discuss Robert Louis Stevenson as an innovator of romance. Genre debates at the fin-de-siècle have been well researched in relation to his fiction and, increasingly, his critical writings. Since Edwin Eiger (1966) and Robert Kiely (1964) published studies on Stevenson’s romance, the interplay between romance and realism that is evident in much of his work has been identified by Roslyn Jolly (1999), Roderick Watson (2004), Hilary J. Beattie (2004) and Michael Saler (2012) to name but a few. Rather than viewing this phenomenon through the lens of genre, which, as Anna Vaninskaya (2008) points out, can lead to unhelpful complications, it is more rewarding to understand Stevenson’s new romance aesthetic as related to his experimentation with time and space.
Part of Stevenson’s approach to reviving the romance, set out in “A Gossip on Romance” and “A Humble Remonstrance”, involved adopting a serious literary perspective, rather than treating it as a lesser fictional mode. This aspiration included reinvigorating the traditional spaces of romance by investing them with a more complex temporality, creating new fictional worlds that operated as Bakhtinian chronotopes.
Stevenson’s fiction invariably takes a “polychronotopic” form (following Pearce [1994]), which introduces a dialogic relationship between different methods of constructing time-space within a single text. Through this, Stevenson critiques traditional generic assumptions about the hero’s interaction with the romance world and applies a self-reflexive approach to understanding the text he is in the act of producing.
This internal dialogic is often exposed in the narrative through Stevenson’s characters who behave beyond the scope of traditional “heroes”, often providing a mismatching perspective to that suggested by the worlds they inhabit over the course of their adventures. Stevenson transformed the romance for a new audience in a similar way to that which Bakhtin traces for the novel in Dostoevsky’s work.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Robert Louis Stevenson; chronotope; dialogism; Bakhtin; time; space; romance; realism; fin-de-siècle culture; narrative; storytelling
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Jan 2015 10:09

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