Date of Award
Campus Access Thesis
English Language and Literatures
Over the past several decades, social theorists, historians and literary critics have posited several intriguing theories as to just how the English novel emerges sometime between 1700 and 1750. Most of these theories cite the rise a middle class as an instigator of this emergence; however, few, if any, as of yet, engage one of the century's most influential documents, Joseph Addison and Richard Steel's Spectator papers (1711-1714). This essay will examine the Spectator in order to show how it manipulates fictive narratives and employs fictional characters in its issues, and how these fictional constructs help establish what has been called the middle class in eighteenth-century England. Additionally, to show how influential Addison and Steele's ideas are, I will show how they inform one of the century's most important works: Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). In regard to Smith's Theory, special attention is paid to the explicitly visual nature of his notion of sympathy, and how we can trace the framework for this notion back some forty years to the pages of the Spectator. Without the imagination, sympathy, for Smith, is impossible. By reading the actions and countenance of another, one can, through an imaginary change of situation, effectively sympathize with that person, closing the gap between self and other. To judge the propriety of another's behavior, however, one must first be aware of accepted social conventions. If we look to the pages of the Spectator, we see Addison and Steele using fictive devices to fashion a broadly inclusive civic sphere governed by a unique set of rules and regulations; importantly, fiction, the imaginary change of station, is the means by which this discursive community is governed. Through an examination of the `fiction' of sympathy in Smith, this essay will show how the Spectator fashions a new community and encourages wide-scale assimilation among members of eighteenth-century Britain.
Alexander, K. C.(2010). The Spectator, Adam Smith, and the Evolution of Fictionality in Eighteenth-century England. (Master's thesis). Retrieved from https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/etd/440