Article published in:Linguistics and Literary History: In honour of Sylvia Adamson
Edited by Anita Auer, Victorina González-Díaz, Jane Hodson and Violeta Sotirova
[Linguistic Approaches to Literature 25] 2016
► pp. 111–128
Chapter 6. The first person in fiction of the 1790s
This article will examine the complexities of first-person narrative in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century fiction. Taking as its starting-point Sylvia Adamson’s ground-breaking work on shifts of point of view in Puritan narratives (see Adamson 1995), it shows that the Romantic period novel is also concerned with exploring the potential complications of first-person perspective, frequently with a view to exposing political changes or contradictions. The authors focused on will be Mary Hays and Elizabeth Hamilton. The first-person perspective in this period has often been identified as an unequivocal outlet for Jacobin sympathies; this essay will use detailed stylistic analysis to suggest that the picture may be more complicated. Building on recent work on first-person narrative from a narratological standpoint (see for example Phelan (2005)), I will show that an examination of texts from the 1790s and beyond calls into question the traditional distinction between the ‘narrating’ and ‘experiencing’ selves of first-person narrative. The novels and memoirs under discussion demonstrate instead the ability of the first person to contain within it a complex, ever-shifting range of deictic and ideological positions.
Published online: 20 October 2016
Cited by 1 other publications
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