Year

2004

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

School of English Literatures, Philosophy and Languages - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

This thesis examines the development of the male Wanderer figure by prominent writers of the Romantic Period - in prose, poetry, and in their self-portrayals. The major texts which it examines are: Godwin's St Leon (1799); Wordsworth's The Prelude (1805) and The Excursion (1814); Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818); Polidori's The Vampyre (1819); and Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). By focussing on the Wanderer's guilt-burden - an essential element in these constructions - it shows to what extent the Wanderer reflected the social conscience of his time. To that end, the thesis argues that the guilt borne by the Wanderer of the Romantic Period was primarily a guilt-burden of privilege. The burden of a social conscience is what made the Wanderer pertinent to an age with egalitarian aspirations. It was this guilt-burden which lent the figure its vitality and significance. In that sense, the Wanderer of the Romantic Period should not be considered merely as a type or version of the Wandering Jew; rather, the figure was primarily a secular construction which, if anything, replaced the religious guilt of the older myth with the increasing social concerns of that revolutionary age.

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