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'A secret pleasure in being mastered': Play, Power and the Morality of Art in J. M. Barrie's Sentimental Tommy and Tommy and Grizel.

Green, Sarah (2012) 'A secret pleasure in being mastered': Play, Power and the Morality of Art in J. M. Barrie's Sentimental Tommy and Tommy and Grizel. MA by research thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This dissertation analyses J.M. Barrie's novels Sentimental Tommy (1896) and Tommy and Grizel (1900) in terms of their narrative explorations of the moral implications of art. In particular, it finds the novels preoccupied with the power relations between reader and text, and with the question of whether the playful pleasures of art can ever justify the moral problems created when its power relations are reproduced in social relationships. The introduction identifies these concerns in the style of the novels through close reading. Chapter one establishes the thesis that, within these novels, art is defined as excess and inconsistency, producing some surprising correspondences to late Nineteenth-Century art theory. This ‘art’ is personified by the protagonist, Tommy, who is shown to have both learned and inherited his artistic disposition. Chapter two identifies a complementary personification, of social morality, in the character of Grizel, which enables their relationship symbolically to play out tensions between art and society. This chapter also finds that these tensions are conceived in the novels as a debate on the gendering of power within heterosexual erotic relationships, wherein the intruding power dynamics of art disturb normative gender roles. Chapter three, conversely, examines a selection of Tommy's non-romantic relationships and finds them to reveal a model of human selfhood as innately inconsistent, though necessarily modified by social relations. As such, Barrie also, and equally, portrays art as potentially therapeutic, since it allows the expression of individualistic concerns. Finally, the conclusion proposes that this ambivalence towards the morality of art culminates, both in these novels and in Barrie's later work, in a symbolic and paradigmatic mother/eternal boy relationship. Acknowledgement of the complexity of this symbolism, I propose, is of consequence, partly because it is precisely this aspect of Barrie's work that has survived and become significant within Western culture.

Item Type: Thesis (MA by research)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Miss Sarah Green
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2013 14:49
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3226

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