Memories of things real and imagined : narratives of youth and middle age in Anthony Powell's A dance to the music of time

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Edmonds, Joanne H.
Jennings, C. Wade
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Thesis (Ph. D.)
Department of English
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This dissertation demonstrates Anthony Powell's skillful adaptation of the traditional Bildunqsroman of youth and his innovative employment of an emerging genre--the Bildunqsroman of middle age--in order to unfold the story of Nicholas Jenkins, his narrator/protagonist, and especially to develop Jenkins as a character who moves through distinct cycles of change that are analyzed in detail. In addition, looking at Powell's work within the traditional and midlife Bildunqsroman and contrasting the characteristics of the second developmental stage with the first allows not only for analysis of the newer genre as practiced by Powell but also for provisional definition of the Bildunqsroman of middle life as written by some other contemporary novelists.Jenkins's youthful cycle of development occurs within the first trilogy or spring "season" of Powell's series; the midlife narrative, in the third trilogy or autumn "season." Although Powell's basic metaphor of the dance through time insists on constant change, these transitional seasons of quickened movement make possible the relatively peaceful productivity of summer, the ripeness of winter. In the first trilogy, Jenkins educates himself from the negative examples of failed mentors. Out of his interest in others, his greatest strength, Jenkins develops compassionate and imaginative powers of observation and discovers his identity and vocation as a writer. In the third trilogy, which begins in loss of vocation, Jenkins is forced onto a more challengingroad of trials than he travelled in youth and into recognition that even one's own identity cannot remain the same. In the process of constructing a new self, Jenkins must discover newways of thinking about what constitutes useful human activity.Among the topics considered also in discussion of the newer genre are contrasting definitions of successful action in youth and in middle age, the more open endings of the midlife narratives, as well as the possibility of differing male and female models for midlife Bildunqsromane. Study ofthe complexity of Jenkins's development, therefore, reveals new complexity in the development of the English novel itself.