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The novels of Anthony Powell : a critical study

Koyama, Taichi (2003) The novels of Anthony Powell : a critical study. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94467) (KAR id:94467)

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This dissertation is an attempt to re-evaluate Anthony Powell, a unique author of comic fiction, and to save him from the relative neglect he seems to have fallen into. It purports to provide a summary of Powell’s long, productive novelistic career; in particular, it aims to keep in view the relationship between comedy and realistic representation of life, and how the relationship grows and changes in Powell’s novels.

Powell’s pre-war novels, inclining towards elegant but mentally brutal farce, depict human beings as two-dimensional, meaningless, and ultimately unworthy of being taken seriously. However, in A Dance to the Music of Time, Powell’s twelve-volume enterprise after WWII, people’s struggles in society are captured in a humanely, rather than farcically, comic light. The author accepts the fact that human beings, however incomplete and two-dimensional their existence is, cannot live without trying to build an enclosure of meaning around them for their own happy survival, and, if possible, to enlarge it to the whole society. The efforts of disparate individuals incessantly contradict each other, and are cancelled in the irresponsible movement of the world. As one of such people with a limited view of human life as a whole, Powell and Dance's narrator Jenkins see, not with derision but with humour, numerous people’s deluded but serious struggles to give a meaning to their lives, and try to find, rather than impose, a ‘choreography’ in which they can be connected synchronically and diachronically.

The main questions to be answered in this dissertation are: (a) whether Powell’s changing comic vision succeeds in displaying a convincing image of society and human life and, (b) if it does, how and to what extent.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94467
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2022 15:50 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2022 15:50 UTC
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