The 'true use of reading' : Sarah Fielding and mid eighteenth-century literary strategies
The aim of this thesis is to explore, by examining her life and works, how Sarah Fielding (1710-68) established her identity as an author. The definition of her role involves her notions of the functions of writing and reading. Sarah Fielding attempts to invite readers to form a sense of ties by tacit understanding of her messages. As she believes that a work of literature is produced through collaboration between the writer and the reader, it is an important task in her view to show her attentiveness toward reading practice. In her consideration of reading, she has two distinct, even opposite views of her audience: on the one hand a familiar and limited circle of readers with shared moral and cultural values and on the other potential readers among the unknown mass of people. The dual targets direct her to devise various strategies. She tries to appeal to those who can endorse and appreciate her moral values as well as her learning. Her writings and letters testify that she is sensitive to the demands of the literary market, trying to lead the taste of readers by inventing new forms. The thesis opens with an overview of Sarah Fielding's career, followed by a consideration of her critical attention to the roles of reading. I go on to examine the narrative structures and strategies she deploys, with a particular emphasis on her use of the epistolary method. The following chapter deals with her attention to the reading of the moral message tangibly embodied in her educational writing. It is followed by an analysis of the activity which earned her a reputation as a learned woman. Various as the forms of her works are, they invariably reflect her attempt to balance herself between the two demands of inventiveness and familiarity.