Date of Award
Master of Arts
Matthew W. Sivils
The issue of the prison, as well as compartment and confinement more broadly, has long constituted a chief concern of nineteenth century authors and their critics. In the decades since the pioneering work of Michel Foucault, particular interest has been paid to the myriad ways institutions of confinement reproduce and impose their conditions within the minds and lives of the subject. Through analysis of three representative nineteenth century historical novels, two by Nathaniel Hawthorne and one by Charles Dickens this thesis further explores the dynamics of the cause and effect between the prison and alienation as inscribed upon the past. Tracing this path through the “carceral archipelago” of literary historiography, this essay charts and explicates the recurrence of the trope of a parasitic, destructive split consciousness as later popularized by Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The split or dual consciousness reflects a new fracture in the age-old dichotomy of the public and private, a fracture caused by the strain of transition away from an idealized and receding pre-capitalist society. In Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the tertiary narrative of Roger Chillingworth refashions the Indian Captivity Narrative as a means of torturous transformation. Similarly, in The House of Seven Gables the narrative of Clifford’s imprisonment and stunted recovery dramatizes the futility of a class bound to the trappings of a bygone era, a rapidly eroding history of joy and sorrow. And in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, the wrongful imprisonment of Dr. Manette saddles him with a direct alter-ego, the shoemaker who labors mechanically and fruitlessly for the benefit of his masters, a trope that transforms the once-heroic doctor into a shade, a simulacrum, in the words of Adam Smith “as stupid as it is possible for a man to become.”
Dodd, Spencer, "Body doubles: Confinement and dissociation in the nineteenth century novel" (2019). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17002.