Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

English and American Literature


English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 9-1-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Miriam Bailin


This dissertation explores the connections between gossip and the development of the British novel over the course of the nineteenth century. Drawing on reevaluations of gossip by sociologists, as well as queer and feminist literary critics, I argue that nineteenth-century novelists rely on gossip in order to convey narrative information and social interactions in the realist tradition. Gossip is a constitutive component of the realist novel, shaping content as it appears in dialogue, in characterization, and in narrators' interjections, but also influencing the novel's formal elements as particular genres respond to gossip outside the text. Looking at a range of nineteenth-century novels, from Jane Austen and Caroline Lamb to Wilkie Collins and Henry James, this dissertation contends that while the emergence of the novel is grounded in the empirical fixations of modernity, gossip exists as a counter-epistemology, alongside the pressures of realism and scientific observation. This revised notion of the novel's relationship to rational understanding allows for a reconceived narrative for the nineteenth-century novel, one in which the appearance of novelistic genres can be traced back to social, as well as scientific, pressures.


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