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Henry Fielding : literary and theological misplacement

Robertson, Scott (2008) Henry Fielding : literary and theological misplacement. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This study is intended as a dialogue between literature and theology, utilizing selected works of the playwright and novelist, Henry Fielding (1707-54). While historical studies of Fielding have clearly yielded much of importance, a broader and less deterministic assessment concerning the latent ambivalences of this, one of the earliest novelists, has yet to be explored. Such an assessment has implications for the current relationship between, and the separate study of, literature and theology. The methodology is informed by an awareness of human frailty (what Fielding described as HUMAN NATURE) and centres upon the use of a specific interpretative tool that I call misplacement. By this, I mean the continuous parting with the ineffable – the perpetual recognition that, in writing, there is always a sense of the other, be that an alternative path not taken, the nagging sense of the numinous, or the coming to terms with the ludicrous nature of the human condition. Such fragile, comedic alterity provides a weak metaphysical root which is shared by both literature and theology. To illustrate the effects of such misplacement, this thesis sets the novels of Henry Fielding alongside works of contemporary philosophical theology such as the post onto-theological critique of Gianni Vattimo and John Caputo, as well as alongside postmodern works of fiction, such as those of Vonnegut and Calvino. In so doing, common critical zones such as epistemology, ethics, mimesis, canonicity, and revelation are investigated. The result of this analysis is that, in all these areas, the novel form, in Fielding’s hands, displays a powerful comic resonance with a theology which seeks to move beyond a strictly deterministic approach. Thus, we discover that Fielding’s work, rather than simply being expressive of proto-Enlightenment principles, actually subverts those assumed securities regarding the status of the individual and his place in the world, before God. In its conclusion, this study reveals the challenge of recognising the inescapably theological nature of the novel and that theology itself, is fictive. This assessment points to a greater need for further shared exploration of the relationship between theology and literature - to their mutual benefit.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Henry Fielding, theology, misplacement, comedy, literature, criticism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BT Doctrinal Theology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Professor David
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Dr Scott Robertson
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-497
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:19
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/497

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