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Title:Rival sensations: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, her adapters, and the contest for cultural representation
Author(s):Lindemann, Ruth Burridge
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Anderson, Amanda
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, European
Literature, English
Abstract:In the nineteenth century, British playwrights exploited a loophole in the copyright law to adapt popular novels at will for the stage. This study documents this moment in theater and literary history to reveal the textual multiplicity that resulted when novels competed for audiences with several theatrical rivals. Mary Elizabeth Braddon, the best-selling author of Lady Audley's Secret and co-creator of the "sensation" novel, was a favorite with dramatists. By reading twelve of her novels in conjunction with the twenty-seven plays based upon them, this study shows how the authors define bourgeois propriety differently. These differences demonstrate the inherent multiplicity of "the popular" and expose the intensity of hegemonic conflict.
This dissertation shows how social position, gender, and aesthetic discourse shape the narrative choices that authors make in relation to particular representations. Chapter 1 locates the novels and plays in their aesthetic and cultural milieu. Subsequent chapters examine four specific points of conflict revealed by juxtaposing these works against one another: social class, heroic identity, criminality, and the theater itself. The second chapter traces how Braddon and the playwrights adopt bourgeois conventions of class, showing how Braddon uses these constructions to challenge social divisions based upon gender while the theater opens up representations of class to suit its more diverse audience. Chapter 3 considers how Braddon redefines gendered aspects of heroism while the adapters largely reinstate conventional gender identities. The fourth chapter examines the authors' different problems representing the criminal. It reveals how Braddon struggles to control the conflicting impulses of melodrama and realism while the adapters try to erase the stigma of criminality from the theater itself. Chapter 5 then shows how the dramatists' anxieties over theatrical "character" produce the phenomenon of theatrical self-erasure. It traces how the theater reconfigures Braddon's representations of theatrical work and thus writes itself out of the picture. The conclusion then argues for further study of adaptation as a way of understanding hegemonic processes.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Lindemann, Ruth Burridge
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9702585
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9702585

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