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Empty HousesTheatrical Failure and the Novel$
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David Kurnick

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151519

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151519.001.0001

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Acoustics in the Thackeray Theater

Acoustics in the Thackeray Theater

(p.29) One Acoustics in the Thackeray Theater
Empty Houses

David Kurnick

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the tonal shifts of the narrative voice in Vanity Fair as encoding a yearning for public scenes of performance. Moving between public speechifying and chastened intimate address, the Thackerayan narrator offers readers an acoustic map of different imaginary scenes of reception. The pitch of Thackeray's voice—both its tone and its reach, its sound and the spaces it organizes—indexes various fantasmatic scenes of readerly witness, conveying in the process a vivid sense of the erosion of public space in the face of the exaltation of the domestic sphere. The sociohistorical imagination evident in Vanity Fair was given a new intensity of focus in his unperformed play The Wolves and the Lamb (1854) and the novel into which he later adapted it, the formally innovative Lovel the Widower (1860). In retreating from the stage, Thackeray both amplified his critique of mid-Victorian domesticity and pioneered the practice of interior monologue.

Keywords:   William Makepeace Thackeray, narrative voice, public space, Vanity Fair, Lovel the Widower, The Wolves in the Lamb, theater, interior monologue

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