NameWald, Margaret Felice (author), McKeon, Michael (chair), Kramnick, Jonathan (internal member), Galperin, William (internal member), Mitsis, Phillip (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectLiteratures in English,
Stoics in literature,
DescriptionStoic ideals infused seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thought, not only in the figure of the ascetic sage who grins and bears all, but also in a myriad of other constructions, shaping the way the period imagined ethical, political, linguistic, epistemological, and social
reform. My dissertation examines the literary manifestation of Stoicism’s legacy, in particular
regarding the institution and danger of autonomy, the foundation and limitation of virtue, the nature of the passions, the difference between good and evil, and the referentiality of language. Alongside the standard satirical responses to the ancient creed’s rigor and
rationalism, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poetry, drama, and prose developed Stoic
formulations that made the most demanding of philosophical ideals tenable within the framework of common experience. Instead of serving as hallmarks for hypocrisy, the literary stoics I investigate uphold a brand of stoicism fit for the post-regicidal, post- Protestant Reformation, post-scientific revolutionary world. My project reveals how writers used Stoicism to determine the viability of philosophical precept and establish ways of compensating for human fallibility. The ambivalent status of the Stoic sage, staged and restaged in countless texts, exemplified the
period’s anxiety about measuring up to its ideals, its efforts to discover the plenitude of natural laws and to live by them. Beginning with Lee’s Lucius Junius Brutus and Addison’s Cato, the most steadfast of heroes, and ending with Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, the most
unaccountable of knaves, the texts I examine articulate a call to be at once more reasonable and more resolute, less inert and less contradictory, at a time when the age-old safeguards of order – the church, the king, and received wisdom – were contested. My readings of Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, Richardson’s Clarissa, Fielding’s Amelia, Johnson’s
Rasselas, Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey, Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, and Pope’s Essay on Man trace a reconstitution of world harmony made possible through stoic enlightenments.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Margaret Felice Wald
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.