The Man Alone in British Colonial and Scientific Romance 1886-1904
Gray, Russell Ion
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This thesis uses some of the key texts of the ‘romance revival’ of the late nineteenth century to develop a theory of the Man Alone, and to explain its significance in both literary and cultural terms. A historicist approach is used to counter a tendency amongst critics to overlook some of the more commercially successful texts of the period in favour of their less ‘popular’ but more ostensibly ‘artistic’ fin-de-siecle or early modernist contemporaries. The study centred on an analysis of novels by four of the most influential authors of the period – Conrad, Kipling, Stevenson and Wells – as well as a selection of their essays and short stories. This was accompanied by a period of archival research studying the original publication context of the source material, and also contemporary press coverage of some of the issues raised. It was discovered that the Man Alone fulfilled two functions in romance fiction, notably in examining the destabilisation of traditional assertions of identity that resulted from Britain’s imperial experiences, and also in dramatising the shift from theology to science as the authorising discourse of British society that happened in the wake of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The Man Alone can thus be argued to be critical to the popular interpretation of the major political and philosophical shifts of late nineteenth century society. The romance revival itself, therefore, should be read as having played a formative role in the emergence of a Modernist literary culture, with Stevenson, Kipling and Wells playing significant roles alongside Conrad in this process.