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Social reality and narrative form in the fiction of Henry Green

By Marius Hentea


Social Reality and Narrative Form in the Fiction of Henry Green contests the\ud dominant reading of Henry Green's fiction as an abstract, autonomous textual\ud production. My thesis situates Green into a number of literary and socio-historical\ud contexts and argues that doing so challenges a number of prevailing critical\ud orthodoxies. I also argue that Green's fiction is formally constructed through a\ud variety of dislocations, from displacing the centrality of plot, undermining the\ud integrity of character, silencing the narrative voice and questioning the authenticity\ud of the self. To relate social reality to narrative form, each of the four main chapters is\ud dedicated to one of four substantive aspects of material reality: age, class, geography\ud and the body. In the first chapter, I examine Green's relationship to the writing of his\ud generation and to the concepts of age and youth. I argue that Green was deeply\ud ambivalent towards generational belonging or the notion that identity could be\ud supplied through one's generation. My second chapter investigates Green's treatment\ud of social class and positions his Birmingham factory novel, Living, against 1930s\ud theories of proletarian fiction and its canonical texts. My third chapter considers sites\ud of authority both in the external world (geographic space) as well as within the\ud novelistic space. The eclipsing of the narrator and the subsequent translation of the\ud imaginative faculty to the reader is a part of Green's strategy to displace sites of\ud authority. My final chapter looks at Green‘s treatment of the physical body and\ud argues that disability is a central aspect of his novelistic practice. The impossibility\ud of unity and wholeness, therefore, sheds light not only on the physicality of modern\ud man but also on wholeness as a mental and linguistic possibility when the times are\ud 'breaking up.

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