Voices, Identities, and Nations in the Narratives of Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849)

Yoshino, Yuri. 2004. Voices, Identities, and Nations in the Narratives of Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849). Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis argues that Edgeworth's novels are interventions in the debate of her contemporaries about the relationship between individuals and nations. The thesis situates her work in the context of the ideological transition in Europe from Enlightenment cosmopolitanism to Romantic nationalism, which rewrote that relationship. Edgeworth's texts interrogate how individuals should affiliate themselves with nations, often in terms of a particular patriotism which could legitimise individuals' national identities with cultural inclusiveness.

The recent scholarship on Edgeworth has revolved around politicised readings that typically neglect stylistic issues. The thesis proposes that an application of narratology could rectify this imbalance in criticism of Edgeworth and similar problems in criticism of other Irish writings, women's writings, and the Romantic-period novels. The earlier chapters thereby shed new light on the complexity of Edgeworth's national identity, by employing Lanser's narratology. It is argued that Edgeworth's `authorial voice' and `personal voice', whether they are considered separately or together, demonstrate the predicament of her narrative authorisation as an Anglo-Irish writer and constitute her national identity as at once problematic and culturally flexible.

The thematic formula of Edgeworth's ideal patriotism offers a solution to such a problem of her national identity, as the later chapters contend. The thesis demonstrates that this formula has ideological underpinnings in the discourse of both Enlightenment cosmopolitanism and Romantic nationalism. The formula, moreover, characterises ideal patriots as multilingual/multicultural in the sense that they can appreciate cultural differences without exclusive discrimination. Edgeworth's ideal patriots are thus modelled as overcoming the limitations of universalist Enlightenment cosmopolitanism and differential Romantic nationalism.

The final chapter demonstrates that Edgeworth's novels may not necessarily authorise this formula coherently. It is, however, argued that in such instances, her `authorial voice' still verifies the viability of the formula, by legitimising her as an ideal patriot of the Irish, and the British nation with the multilingual/multicultural narrative voice crossing the borders between nations, social groups, and genders. The thesis concludes that Fdgeworth's novels reproduce a colonial context despite their attempt to resolve that thorny context.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Maria Edgeworth, narratives, national identity, voices

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



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Date Deposited:

04 Jun 2020 12:07

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:32



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