Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

English and Comparative Literature


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Miriam L Bailin


Fictional Selves: Creating Identity in the Victorian Fictional Autobiography is about fictionality and the role that processes of fiction play in our experiences of personal subjectivity. I argue that the particular and historically situated form of the Victorian fictional autobiography helps us to perceive the more widespread importance of fiction to our understanding of identity as both a creative and a social process. In my work, a fictional autobiography is the autobiography of an explicitly fictional character. David Copperfield and Bleak House by Dickens and Jane Eyre and Villette by C. Bronte are openly imaginative works, but they are told through the thematic and formal conventions of the nascent genre of autobiography. I propose that the dual presence of conventions of reference and conventions of fiction encourages a doubled reading stance with respect to the text that allows the sympathetic reader to recognize the fictionality of her own practices of identity formation by seeing them played out in the narrative of an openly fictional character with whom she emotionally identifies. By thus redefining the nature of human identity, the fictional autobiography implicitly engages, and asks us to reconsider, Victorian preoccupations with human potential, especially through the paradigmatic figures of the author and the domestic woman.


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