Aesthetics, Politics, and Aggressive Forms: Structures of Progress and Restoration in Eighteenth-Century Narrative Britain

Swenson, Rivka, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia
Hunter, J, Department of English, University of Virginia
Wall, Cynthia, Department of English, University of Virginia
O'Brien, John, Department of English, University of Virginia
Halliday, Paul, Department of History, University of Virginia

Aesthetics, Politics, and Aggressive Forms: Structures of Progress and Restoration in Eighteenth-Century Narrative Britain argues that the incorporating 1707 Act of Union of Great Britain gave new ideological energy to formal, generic, iconic, and grammatical oppositions between "progress" and "restoration," "unity" and "fragmentation." Ephemeral print culture during the long eighteenth century foregrounds the shifting relationship between these two sets of submerged but shaping categories that correlates with aesthetic innovation in prose narratives. Majority attempts to unify the nation around a primarily English, Protestant, Whig set of priorities-as well as efforts to promote Scottish, Catholic, Tory, or Jacobite interests-are inscribed within novels, travel narratives, and national histories by Daniel Defoe, Jane Barker, Tobias Smollett, Samuel Johnson, Hemy Fielding, and Susan Ferrier that exploit a perceived correlation between political structures and narrative ones. This project brings into focus anxieties about gender, monstrosity, colonialism, diaspora, religious difference, and the domestic and transatlantic "margins" of empire that are attached unevenly to the national project. IT maps competing versions of Britishness and narrative aesthetics, thus disclosing the categorical confusion negotiated by their "aggressive forms." Recognizing the global and European contexts of British cultural nationalisms, it retrains our focus onto the under explored indigenous spaces-geographical and textual-in which versions of "Britishness" are contested; it widens our frame of reference within Britain's geographic borders by breaking up patterns of generic insularity that impede the ability to trace migrations and transformations among texts, contexts, forms, and gemes. Identifying a porous exchange between political contexts, archival material, and prose narratives, this project traces a confluence between political and narrative structures that is at the center
of aesthetic innovation in Britain during the long eighteenth century. Ultimately, the project seeks to reshape the way we read long-eighteenth-century prose narratives across genres.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
18th century, narratives, political structures, narrative structures, Britain

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2015-10-15 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:38:10.

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