The motivated text: Bunyan, Swift, Fielding, Sterne

Carlton, Peter Jude, Department of English, University of Virginia
Winner, Anthony, Department of English, University of Virginia

This dissertation brings together four essays, each of which may stand independently, but all responding to the same question: Why is this text written just as it is? The kind of answer sought depends upon the individual work. In Grace Abounding, Bunyan employs "disclaiming locutions"--numerous phrases like "and then that Scripture bolted in upon me," implying that these abrupt recollections of biblical texts are externally caused events--in an attempt to import objectivity into the radical subjectivism enforced by the Calvinist doctrine of the "effectual call." Bunyan and his fellow Puritans seek such objectivity because not to receive the call is to be eternally damned; they achieve it in this way because the call can only be heard within. Disclaiming locutions mask the operation of wish-fulfilling autosuggestion.

Chapter Two searches for the psychoanalytic key to Swift's vertiginous Tale of a Tub, and finds one in Erik Erikson's understanding of the anal character as one who has never properly resolved the autonomy crisis- of childhood. Reading Mrs. Pilkington's Memoirs reveals Swift perpetually oscillating between assertions of autonomy and a regressive longing for the maternal symbiosis. Many apparently unrelated episodes and passages in the Tale assume coherence as expressions of Swift's polarized impulses.

Chapter Three, on Tom Jones, turns from unconscious to conscious Authorial motives. It discusses Fielding's masterpiece--which is set in 1745, the year of the last Jacobite uprising--as an allegory of the confrontation between, and reconciliation of, Jacobite and Whig views of monarchical authority. Allworthy, with his respect for the limits of his authority, represents the Whig position, while the tyrannous Western is emblematic of Stuart absolutism. Tan and Sophia, in ways too complex to enumerate here, embrace both sides, so that in their union, Whig and Jacobite are doubly reconciled.

Chapter Four, on Tristram Shandy, returns to a psychoanalytic approach, and finds an oedipal method in Sterne's madness. His attitude toward his literary "fathers" vacillates between defiant independence and unabashed plagiarism, and his erotic fascination with widows is linked to his relationship with his twice-widowed mother.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Bunyan, John -- 1628-1688 -- Grace abounding, Motivation (Psychology) in literature, English literature -- 18th century -- History and criticism, English literature -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism
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