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George Gissing’s Thyrza and Lambeth: Amid the Backways of Lambeth

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

Published
Publication date1/08/2018
Host publicationThe Palgrave Encyclopedia of Urban Literary Studies
EditorsJeremy Tambling
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783319625928
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

George Gissing’s fifth published novel Thyrza (1887) has a wide geographical scope, stretching from Ullswater in the north and Eastbourne in the south, and this north-south trajectory is paralleled, microcosmically, in London’s geography. In its distinct city-country divide (also delineating class boundaries), the novel reflects its direct predecessor Demos (1886). But in its presentation of city as region, it also looks towards its successor The Nether World (1889). The bulk of the plot focuses on “A Corner of Lambeth”. It is frequently understood as Gissing’s most Dickensian novel and the protagonist, Thyrza Trent, nominally recalls Nell Trent, heroine of The Old Curiosity Shop (1840). If the novel is Dickensian in tone, it nonetheless subverts readerly expectations of a mid-Victorian Bildungsromanin that, for the protagonist at least, experience leads to social and geographical return not progression.