Doctor of Philosophy
A sense of nostalgia for real adventure is ubiquitous in the adventure fiction of Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad. While many scholars consider the object of the writers’ nostalgia to be the exploratory age of the British Empire before her massive territorial expansion in 1890s, I argue that there is a missing piece in the current critical understanding of nostalgia: its textual dimension. Nostalgia in my texts is more than a historical longing for the youthful days of the Empire; it is a textual longing for the ideal adventure as imagined and constructed by the previous generation of the adventure stories. The nostalgic moments in Stevenson, Kipling, and Conrad are conscious meta- and inter-textual constructions. My approach to the nostalgia in these tales is a formalist intervention informed by Caroline Levine’s updated formalism and Northrop Frye’s old structuralism. I examine nostalgia as a formal element integral to these tales, which embodies both the emotional affinity to the ideals of the adventure fiction of the previous generation and the sophisticated awareness that their desires for adventure have been mediated by literary imagination. This study then explores the possibility of reading the nostalgia in the authors’ adventure fiction as a mode of metafictionality – a mode of rewriting and reinterpreting the generic conventions of the adventure genre and the romance form. The result of this exploration necessitates a creation of a new literary category, which I call ‘nostalgic metafiction’. I propose a way of understanding nostalgic texts as a literary category distinct from conventional metafictional writings like parodies or satires: as nostalgic metafiction that simultaneously sympathizes with and challenges the conventions of the genre to which it belongs.
Summary for Lay Audience
The main authors whose works this study examines are Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, and Joseph Conrad. Stevenson and Kipling are well known for their adventure stories like Treasure Island and The Jungle Book. Joseph Conrad too is famous for his Heart of Darkness which is read as an anti-adventure story and commonly used for the teaching of the horrors of imperialism, of the crimes committed by the European states on the African continent in the nineteenth century. My thesis focuses on a rather surprising element found in selected adventure narratives by the three authors: nostalgia. A number of narratives by the authors presents curious casts of anti-heroes who sentimentally look back at their lost chance of doing something daring and honorable in the past. The pervasive sense of sadness and belatedness conveyed by these narratives is best described as nostalgic.
Most scholars consider the object of the writers’ nostalgia to be the exploratory age of the British Empire before her massive territorial expansion in the latter half of the nineteenth century. However, instead of examining their nostalgia as a case of imperial nostalgia, I examine it as a longing for the ideal imperial past imagined and portrayed by the adventure genre. To say that the narratives under examination simply long for the youthful days of the Empire, they betray too sophisticated a historical and literary awareness that the promise for ideal imperial adventure was always an illusion, constructed and fueled by the literature of the past generation. Therefore, I examine the nostalgia in these narratives as a type of metafictionality – as a mode of rewriting and reinterpreting the generic conventions of the overall adventure genre. Metafictionality is a self-referential quality in a narrative that draws attention to its status as an artifact and is a characteristic feature of the postmodern novel which parodies and ironizes the conventions of the previous literary tradition. Against the backdrop of this postmodern understanding of metafictionality, I propose to invent a new category of metafiction called “nostalgic metafiction” which simultaneously sympathizes with and challenges the conventions of the genre to which it belongs.
Lee, Hanji, "Nostalgic Metafiction: The Adventure Fiction of Stevenson, Kipling, and Conrad" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8658.
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