Richardson Among the Philosophers: Interiority, Perspective, and Formal Irony In the Fiction of Samuel Richardson
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Samuel Richardson developed a narrative technique that recreates the epistemological and ontological conditions of selfhood theorized by empiricist philosophy; these conditions are the complex interplay between interior and exterior states that creates interiority and the dynamics of limited perspective. This technique I call formal irony. Locke, Hume, and Smith all theorize selves that exist as ontologically separate minds with epistemologically limited perceptions; by developing a narrative technique that recreates these conditions, Richardson represents characters as separated from others (what I call social irony) and separated from their own hearts (internal irony). Richardson considered these conditions problems, however, and each of his novels is an attempt to solve them, though these solutions are often made provisional by the very conditions they attempt to escape. In chapter 1, I theorize my major terms and begin my investigation of interiority and perspective by examining Locke’s theory of language in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. In chapter 2 I read Pamela alongside Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature and examine the way Richardson represents character as a function of limited perspective, the way he uses disclosure to solve the separations created by interiority, but also the way disclosure is a naïve solution, one that does not fully account for the distortions of self. In chapter 3 I read Clarissa and examine the way Richardson, now more aware of the complications of interiority and perspective, further explores separation by including multiple narrators who use competing hermeneutics. Richardson uses typology as a solution to these problems; his typological solution, however, though it appears to resolve the separation of self and heart, fails to resolve the separation of self and other. In chapter 4 I read Grandison alongside Smith’s A Theory of Moral Sentiment and examine the way Richardson uses deliberate acts of imaginative transposition to transcend the limitations of self and solve the separation of self and other; this solution is only possible, however, because Richardson re-fashions the self to be less of an individual. Richardson, I argue throughout, is an innovator, someone constantly re-examining the problems of the self and constantly proposing new solutions.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/23841
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