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Title: Healthy debate : medical discourses in the early novel
Author: Gifford, Mary G. S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 4554
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2018
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In the light of different views about how the early novel was distinct as a literary form, this thesis draws on those ideas that emphasise the novel's capacity to formulate and address issues of major concern to a broad section of eighteenth-century society. Modern experience was shaped by new epistemological and socio-ethical codes, removed from traditional values and assumptions which, as a cultural instrument, the novel was designed to mediate. This thesis focuses on the novel of mid-century when, in Michael McKeon's view, the novel first became a distinct genre, and displayed a conspicuous adaptability in tackling its explicatory and interpretative role. To the reader, the novel opened up a spectrum of (fictional) experiential possibilities. These were delivered through formal realist strategies in a literary form that was askance to established modes of cultural expression such as romance. Furthermore, formal realist strategies reflected empiricist tenets, or the gaining of knowledge through experience rather than by referral to perceived authorities, such as Church or State. One theme which recurs as a prominent area of concern is that of medical theory and practice. This thesis demonstrates how the early novel form explicated and engaged with topical medical discourses by virtue of its emergent literary qualities. These qualities include innovative narrative techniques, the portrayal of multiple perspectives, and characterisation; those attributes that strive to construct verisimilitude. Via this engagement, medical discourses served as a powerful tool to illustrate and participate in wider debates of philosophical, cultural and social significance during the period. Adopting the methodology of the case study, three contrasting representatives of the early novel are analysed with reference to three important medical debates of mid-century. The novels are The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759-1767) by Laurence Sterne; The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748) by Tobias Smollett and The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753) also by Smollett. The debates are respectively man-midwifery and conception theories; naval medicine, and the professionalisation of medicine. Furthermore, I argue that together the case studies provide new evidence to substantiate a broader claim. They confirm John Bender's evaluation of the eighteenth-century novel as an Enlightenment 'knowledge system'.
Supervisor: Pohl, Nicole ; Watson, Katherine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral