Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
This thesis discusses the relationship of irony and metafiction in Charlotte Lennox's 1752 novel The Female Quixote. Though it is a very early work of metafiction, The Female Quixote draws attention to itself as a literary construct, questioning the relationship between romance and the novel through the complicated interplay of ironies. While it is ostensibly a novel in which the quixotic heroine Arabella ultimately learns the error of her ways, The Female Quixote nevertheless contains a number of romance elements in its plot and characters, which undercuts the apparent defeat of romance at the end. Furthermore, Arabella's immersion in her heroic world draws a number of characters supposedly rooted in the "real" world of the novel into similarly quixotic situations, thus generating other layers of "reality," or fictional worlds-within-worlds. The recontextualisation of romance language and behaviour is the major mechanism in the production of these worlds-withinworlds. These fictional layers are metafictional in the sense that they foreground the contrasts and similarities between the novel's "real" world and Arabella's fantasy world. The more fictional layers generated in the text, the more apparent it becomes to the reader that they are all merely constructs, as is the "real" world of the novel. The first chapter of the thesis examines The Female Quixote as a romance, and also discusses the text's portrayal of romance as an ironic mode. The second chapter focuses on Arabella's world of romance, with particular emphasis on the creative power of ironically recontextualised romance language. The third chapter discusses the ways in which Glanville and Sir George both attempt to manipulate Arabella's world for their own purposes, in turn generating other fictional layers or worlds in which they become entangled. The fourth chapter compares the approaches of the Countess and the Doctor to getting Arabella to readjust to the novel's "real" world, examining these attempts to alter Arabella's perception of the world in relation to language, irony and romance. The concluding chapter analyses the metafictional implications of the topics discussed in the previous chapters, also locating Lennox's questioning of the nature of genre and fiction within the contexts of irony and literary history.
White, Isabel Gibson, "Irony, Metafiction, and The Female Ouixote" (1997). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7207.
McMaster University Library