Beginning's ends : new senses of ending and the eighteenth-century novel
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] This dissertation argues that an examination of innovative endings in both canonized and forgotten eighteenth-century prose fiction contributes to our understanding of the early novel. When endings have been discussed in previous scholarship, it has usually been to show how they fit into (or deviate from) a set of expectations about what a novel ending looks like. The assumptions about where these expectations come from are rarely - if ever - articulated. In consequence, there is a discrepancy between how we talk about narrative expectations and what readers actually encountered in the eighteenth-century novel. I argue that novel endings do not suddenly become dynamic at the beginning of the nineteenth century but rather that such dynamism is built into the novel form. Each chapter focuses on a particular thread of innovation during this period. I examine several sorts of endings that highlight the discrepancy between what we say about the early novel and what was actually happening: a canonical author's least-read text (Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison), a neglected author's texts (the experimental work of Sarah Fielding), one of the most well-known endings of the eighteenth-century (William Godwin's Caleb Williams), and the work of a canonical woman writer working in multiple genres across a long period of time (diarist, playwright, and novelist Frances Burney). This dissertation serves as part of what I hope is a growing chorus of works calling for more comprehensive mapping of the early novel's narrative features.
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