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‘The Knot, that ties them fast together’: Personal proper name change and identity formation in English literature, 1779-1800

Coulombeau, Sophie (2014) ‘The Knot, that ties them fast together’: Personal proper name change and identity formation in English literature, 1779-1800. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis addresses literary representations of personal proper name change from 1779 to 1800, arguing that these representations function as sites upon which cultural anxieties about social classification - in which notions of kinship, gender and class all play important roles - are negotiated. Reading imaginative prose literature by Frances Burney, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Charlotte Turner Smith and William Godwin alongside historical sources including journals and newspaper articles, tracts, letters, trial transcripts and legal judgments, I show that these representations of name change offer insights into how competing models of personal identity were envisaged to come into conflict. The thesis contributes to studies of eighteenth-century theories of language, by examining how proper names were understood to exist in relation to common names within lexicography and philosophy of the period. It seeks to enhance understanding of identity formation in the eighteenth century by arguing for the importance of naming practices in constructing identities through social mediations. It modifies the history of personal naming in England by offering original qualitative and quantitative research concerning the practice of surname change by Royal Licence. It argues that the eighteenth-century novel interrogates competing models of personal identity in dialogue with the laxity of English common law around issues of personal naming, which enables individuals in England to participate in a rich variety of self-fashioning practices. Finally, it offers a contribution to studies of eighteenth-century fame within the commercialised public sphere by arguing that excavating the mutation and material circulation of the personal proper name is key to understanding how ‘reputation’ worked to confer value and status.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.617241
Depositing User: Sophie Coulombeau
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2014 15:11
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:31
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6694

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