Spaces, Things, Heterotoplas: A Duncical Map Of Early Eighteenth-Century British Culture

Baird, Ileana Florentina, Department of English, University of Virginia
Wall, Cynthia, Department of English, University of Virginia
Hunter, Paul, Department of English, University of Virginia
Wicke, Jennifer, Department of English, University of Virginia
Pasanek, Brad, Department of English, University of Virginia
Wellmon, Chad, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia

My work sets The Dunciad in Four Books (1743) into parallel play with the most recent technologies of digital humanities, drawing on historical, theoretical and quantitative methods to shed a new light on publicness as an emerging category at the beginning of the eighteenth century. My project branches out in three main directions. First, I attempt to map out the London of Pope's time, to recover its various topographical, political, religious, and cultural spaces, based on the unusually rich system of allusions which informs the text. This layered reading of the text accounts for Pope's unique overlapping of real, mythological and imaginary spaces which contributes to the creation of a networked text and reading community, so characteristic for a modern urban setting. Second, I use this layered reading of the text to argue that Pope's intention was to create a "heterotopic" space describing what British culture might have become under the Moderns' assault. Such an exploration of the possible opens a cultural field usually not surveyed by current criticism: the contribution made by minor or forgotten authors in shaping the cultural milieu of their time. Finally, I pay particular attention to the textual spaces described by the poem and its overflowing apparatus. I read Pope's textual strategy of constantly referencing his poem in footnotes as an instance of non-sequential writing, a writing that is rhizomatic, branching and hypertextual in nature, and which encourages new reading strategies that can be best brought to light through the use of digital technologies. Even as I appear to oppose Pope's agenda, I defend here the fundamental, but little acknowledged, role played by Pope's "dunces" in shaping the main directions of modernity.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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