This book is about the empiricist challenge to literature, and its influence on eighteenth-century theories of fiction. British empiricism from Bacon to Hume challenged the notion that imaginative literature can be a reliable source of knowledge. This book argues that theorists of the novel, from Henry Fielding to Jane Austen, recognized the force of the empiricist challenge but refused to capitulate. It traces how, in their reflections on the novel, these writers attempted to formulate a theoretical link between the world of experience and the products of the imagination, and thus update the old defenses of poetry for empirical times. Taken together, the empiricist challenge and the responses it elicited signaled a transition in the longstanding debate about literature and knowledge, as an inaugural round in the persisting conflict between the empirical sciences and the literary humanities.
"Empiricism and the Early Theory of the Novel explores the impact of the empirical turn in philosophy on how imaginative writing could be justified in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. . Maioli's conclusion demonstrates how eighteenth-century novel theory prefigures modern arguments about the value of the humanities. . It is a thought-provoking end to a thoroughly engaging book." (Gillian Skinner, The BARS Review, Issue 52, 2018)
"Maioli's book takes us back to eighteenth-century debates about the capacity for literature to teach us anything meaningful about the empirical world. . the value of Maioli's book is that it ensures that we continue to think about why literature is valuable in a world in which it seems that value can never be taken for granted." (Peter DeGabriele, Modern Philology, Vol. 116 (02), June, 2018)
Roger Maioli is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Florida, USA. He holds a PhD in English from Johns Hopkins University and an MA in English Literary Studies from the University of São Paulo. In addition to articles in SEL, Eighteenth-Century Fiction and The Shandean, he authored the first Brazilian translation of Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews.
Introduction.- 1. Maps of Worlds Unseen.- 2. David Hume and the Empiricist Challenge.- 3. Empiricism and Fielding's Theory of Fiction.- 4. Varieties of Propositionalism.- 5. Laurence Sterne and the Experience of Reading Fiction.- Conclusion.- Works Cited.- Index.-