16 February 2006
I read the first 76 pages of Maria Edgeworth's The Absentee last night, and I have had an epiphany. I am not going to do my thesis on gender issues in Romantic novels. I am going to do my thesis on parent-child relationships in Romantic novels. The parents in Romantic novels seem woefully inadequate, qua parents. They are either literally absent (Grace Nugent's parents in Absentee), or emotionally absent (Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice), or mentally absent (Mr. Woodhouse in Emma). Why is this? Is it as simple as a plot device to foreground the young protagonists? Is there a cultural component? A literary tradition? Why are the family relationships in Romantic novels so dysfunctional? And don't even get me started on parents in gothic novels.
I feel good about this. I had been kind of worried, because I felt like my previous idea for a thesis was a good one, but I was at a bit of a loss as far as how to get started and where to go from there. I think there's a lot more possibility with this new topic. I can see aspects of New Historicism as well as psychological criticism fitting into it, which will be fun.