Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Su, John J.

Second Advisor

Wadsworth, Sarah

Third Advisor

Canavan, Gerry


In my dissertation, I argue that the novel of manners, while sometimes considered a moribund genre, presents itself as a genre relevant to contemporary criticism of social change from consensus politics to privatization both at governmental and domestic levels. I establish both key terms, cultural and theoretical trends, and define the novel of manners in context as a historical genre and a contemporary one. I further explore the novel of manners as a commentary on social and moral problems, particularly in tensions between social morality and individual morality that emerge when manners break down, a concept originally highlighted by Henry James. I interrogate the interplay between nostalgia, manners, and national identity, highlighting the recreation of moribund social and moral values as a means of exerting authority over the family unit and generating profit out of national heritage. Finally, I highlight the means by which literary texts cast consumerism as literal and figurative pornography that transforms the citizen into a consumer. I specifically examine the breakdown of manners through scenes of pornography and material consumption that illustrate moral depravity at the individual and national levels. The seven texts selected for my study in the new novels of manners--Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), Jeffery Eugenides' The Marriage Plot (2011), Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty (2004), Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (1989), Ian McEwan's The Child in Time (1987), Martin Amis's Money (1984), and Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho (1991)--engage with neoliberalism and its social effects on individuals. Because citizens were redefined as consumers during the 1980s in both the United States and Britain, I contend that the novelists and novels in my study formulate a critique of social amorality in the same way Henry James's literary criticism established in the novel of manners' early study: in viewing the domestic as a politicized space, we can better understand the tensions between social morality and individual morality when the manners of a society break down in public or private spaces.