Date of Award

12-1990

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Norman J. Sanders

Committee Members

Richard Penner, B. J. Leggett, Martha L. Osborne

Abstract

Barbara Pym, a mid twentieth-century British novelist of manners, peoples her twelve novels and shorter works with Anglican clergymen and the "excellent women" of a certain age who are their parishoners. This study examines the development of clerical types in her novels, shows how these types are descended from earlier writers such as Jane Austen, the Brontës and Anthony Trollope and traces the fortunes of the mid twentieth-century Anglican Church in her work.

My research was facilitated by having access to Barbara Pym's letters, journals and personal papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and by having the opportunity to interview her sister, Hilary Pym Walton, in Oxford.

In her earliest novels Pym depicts the Anglican clergy as ineffectual and humorous but central to community life. In her middle and later work she traces the decline of the Anglican Church and the rise of the Welfare State, which does not fill the void left by the Church. Pym examines the question, what creates a sense of community and purpose in the modern world? Pym's friend, the poet Philip Larkin, who looks at some of the same issues in his work, shared ideas with her over the years via a large collection of letters, which shed light on the methods both writers were employing.

Barbara Pym finds that the Anglican Church has lost much vigor but does still serve in a modest way as a state church and source of cohesion.

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