Resumen de tesis. The satirical reception of the new learning in english literature, 1592-1743
The satirical reception of the new learning in english literature, 1592-1743
Tesis y disertaciones académicas
Universidad de Salamanca (España)
Resumen de tesis
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[EN] This PhD thesis is concerned with the satirical reception of the New Learning between 1592 and 1743. By the New Learning I mean antiquarianism, natural philosophy and textual criticism. The earliest example I have found of the satirical reception of antiquarianism is Thomas Nashe’s Pierce Penilesse his Supplication to the Devil (1592); the final work I look at in connection with textual criticism is Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad in Four Books (1743). In each of the three different fields something new began to happen in the period in question. The antiquaries, or later, antiquarians took an interest in the physical remnants of the past in order to understand better what had gone before. The natural philosophers, encouraged by Bacon’s scientific writings, embraced the empirical model of investigation and rejected Aristotle (384-322 BC) as stultifying and unproductive. The textual critics brought their faith in their own ability to correct faulty literary texts before a general readership, firstly in classical literature and secondly in Shakespeare. All three undertakings were contrary to the prevailing understanding of knowledge during the period, which was that knowledge came from texts and in particular from ancient classical literature. As a result of this, the antiquary, the virtuoso and the textual critic all attracted the attention of the satirists of the day, who remained loyal to the old ways of understanding. The thesis takes as its starting point Pedro Javier Pardo’s assertion that there is an identifiable body of work concerned with satirizing pedantry in the eighteenth century (Satire). He identifies the figures of what I call the textual critic and the virtuoso among others as the vehicles for this satire, regarding the Memoirs of Scriblerus (1741) as the epitome of the genre or mode. I have taken this perception back to the late 1590s by including the figure of the antiquary as another example of what is effectively a new form of learning which sought to displace the dominance of thinkers such as Aristotle and Galen (129-216 AD). By the sixteenth century, important contemporary thinkers were finding Aristotle’s thought restrictive. The logical framework of the Ancients’ way of looking at the world was provided by Aristotle’s Organon (4th century BC), six treatises on logic, including the Posterior Analytics, which explored how to define truth and what could be said about it. It is noteworthy in his Posterior Analytics that he specifies conclusions must be deducible from first principles in a scientific demonstration, surely meaning that the first principles determine the outcome of the experiment (Oxford Classical Dictionary 165-9). Aristotle regarded the syllogism as central to logic, a sequence of three statements the first two of which result in the third.1 While the syllogism served philosophers, it also potentially restricted them, as Bacon thought, because of its inclusive structure. This could result in the so-called syllogism fallacy. The epistemological rupture which precipitated the development of natural philosophy in the seventeenth century along experimental lines is to be found, as has already been implied, in the work of Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Bacon wrote a Novum Organon Scientiarum (1620), the purpose of which is clear in the title given to a mid-nineteenthcentury translation: The Novum Organon: Or, a True Guide to the Interpretation of Nature. He argues that the old ways of thinking excluded man from nature, rather than allowing him access to it and the ability to understand it. He also regarded the syllogism as suspect, as it made use of words which in turn represented confused notions (Instauratio II 69). His solution was to prefer the technique of induction to the syllogism, based on observation and conclusions drawn from what has been observed.4 Bacon’s philosophy gathered its own followers and was arguably the first instance of Modern thinking. It was partly as a result of Bacon’s writings that the Royal Society was founded in the 1660s, providing an institutional home for experimental science. The reaction on the part of the poets and the wits of the day to the experiments which were carried out there was one of incomprehension. This was because they were still comfortable with the Aristotelian status quo ante. It was this that led to the phenomenon of the satirical reception of natural philosophy. Early in the thesis I will show how the works of Bacon were important for this new development. I shall present in this thesis the idea that the satirical reception of the New Learning in English literature between 1592 and 1743 represents, on the one hand, a satirical response to three new disciplines – antiquarianism, natural philosophy and textual criticism – and, on the other, a record of a literary misapprehension. This was satire written according to an old way of thinking which was soon to give way to the new one which informed the satirical targets. Such satire preserves beliefs which are by now outdated and offers the historical lesson that he who mocks can, after the passing of a suitable amount of time, actually turn out to have mistakenly condemned a new form of knowledge because it was incompatible with the prevailing ideas of the day. There now follows a description of the structure of the thesis and a summary of its ten chapters. The thesis is divided into three parts which deal respectively with the figures of the antiquary, the virtuoso and the textual critic. Since the greater part of the evidence concerns the virtuoso, that part contains seven chapters, while the other two contain one and two chapters respectively. Chapter One is concerned with the satirical reception of the antiquary between 1592 and 1699. It begins with a discussion of the work of William Camden which highlights what is new about antiquarianism and collects together the various examples of satirical references to the antiquary. The first is Thomas Nashe’s Pierce Penilesse his Supplication to the Devil (1592) and the chapter ends with an examination of William King’s A Journey to London, In the Year 1698 (1699). Important works of literature discussed in this chapter are John Earle’s character sketch The Antiquarie, published in 1628, and Shackerley Marmion’s comedy of the same name, performed earlier but first printed in 1641. Chapter Two opens the second part of this thesis and gives an insight into the historical background to the figure of the virtuoso, an understanding of which is necessary to appreciate both the virtuoso and the satire written about the virtuoso. The chapter addresses the nature of natural philosophy as opposed to modern conceptions of science. It also explores the changing worldview of the 1600s, represented by Copernicus (1473-1543) and Kepler (1571-1630) in astronomy or Newton (1643-1727) in mathematics, and it stresses the importance of Francis Bacon’s work in allowing scientific inquiry to detach itself from the thinking of Aristotle and move ahead by embracing induction. It also discusses the different types of virtuosi and the ideas associated with them. It then explores the revaluation of the virtuosi in the twentieth century. Chapter Three examines the first satirical accounts of the virtuosi in the works of the author Samuel Butler. Although much of what Butler wrote about the virtuosi was not published until long after his death in 1759, he does provide us with the first example of the satirical reception of the virtuosi in the second part of Hudibras, where he satirizes the microscope (1663). His most accomplished satire on the virtuosi is probably The Elephant in the Moon, a work which attacks the use of the telescope to observe distant worlds supposedly teeming with life, according to the latest astronomical theories (probably 1676). Chapter Four concerns Thomas Shadwell (c. 1640-92). It was the character of Sir Nicholas Gimcrack in Shadwell’s comedy The Virtuoso (1676), which proved the most effective literary creation in undermining belief in the virtuosi. Chapter Five contains an examination of subsequent satirical accounts of the virtuoso by Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82), Aphra Behn (1640?-89) and William King (1663-1712) in works published from the 1680s onwards. In Browne’s Musaeum Clausum, or Biblioteca Abscondita (1683) we encounter a satirical reception of curiosity as a characteristic of the virtuoso. The first performance of Behn’s comedy The Emperor of the Moon took place in 1687. The central character of Behn’s comedy is Doctor Baliardo, who is obsessed with the moon. Behn’s characterization of Baliardo is Quixotic as his obsession with the moon comes from reading books on the subject and the results show the comic consequences of becoming detached from the world. The source of several references to Rosicrucianism is examined. The chapter closes with a consideration of two works by William King. These are The Transactioneer (1700) and the Useful Transactions in Philosophy, and Other Sorts of Learning: In Three Parts (1708). Chapter Six is concerned with Scriblerian satire by Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. In the first part of the chapter the focus is on the Scriblerus Club, whose members included Swift and Pope. In the second half of the chapter the Memoirs of Scriblerus (1741) become the focus. A summary of the contents of the Memoirs is given and the satirical character of the Memoirs described. There ensues a discussion of the different satirical styles the Memoirs draw on, ranging from satire, parody and burlesque, the latter both in the eighteenth-century and in the modern sense. The importance of Cervantes for the Memoirs is described. There then follows a discussion of the satirical reception of the Ancients and Moderns in the Memoirs. Chapter Seven looks at satires written about Dr John Woodward (1665/8-1728), much of which was personal in nature. Woodward’s interests were rather broad and included fossils, antiquarianism and the treatment of smallpox. Each of these interests were the subject of satirical treatments of Woodward. A version of Woodward as a virtuoso appears in John Gay’s comedy Three Hours after Marriage (1717) in the form of the character Fossile. Woodward’s iron shield, which he thought was Roman in origin, features in the satire on antiquarianism in Chapter Three of the Memoirs of Scriblerus. The Life and Adventures of Don Bilioso d l’Estomac (1719) is an anonymous response to Woodward’s approach to treating smallpox. Chapter Eight seeks to answer the question as to whether Swift’s Voyage to Laputa is a Scriblerian postscript. There follows at the heart of this chapter a discussion of the visit to the Academy of Lagado in the Travels, when Gulliver visits the flying island of Laputa and its dependent territory of Balnibarbi. The conclusion is that the visit to the Academy of Lagado in Balnibarbi is an example of the satirical reception of early modern science. And given that much of Swift’s work considered in this chapter deals with follies in learning, the conclusion is reached that Gulliver’s Travels (1726) can hold its place in any account of the evolution of the satirical reception of early modern science and of learning itself. Part Three of this thesis deals with the satirical reception of the textual critic. Textual criticism became a subject for satire as a result of the publication of three books. Firstly, the edition of the poetry of the Roman poet Horace prepared by Richard Bentley was published in 1711 and soon became the focus of criticism because of Bentley’s changes to the text of one of the main works of Roman literature. Lewis Theobald, a self-confessed disciple of Bentley, published his Shakespeare Restored in 1726. The purpose of the work was to demonstrate through the procedures of textual criticism the defects of a recent edition of William Shakespeare’s plays edited by Alexander Pope. Thirdly, Bentley’s edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost was published in 1732 and flowed into the satirical current formed by Pope’s Dunciads (1729, 1743). Chapter Nine explores the development of textual criticism in the world of classical scholarship. It then examines Bentley’s intervention in the Battle of the Ancients and Moderns and his appearance as a character in Swift’s Battle of the Books (1704). The next topic is the importance given to the conjectural emendation in Bentley’s edition of Horace. The satirical responses to Bentley’s work are considered. Chapter Ten is concerned with Alexander Pope’s reception of textual criticism in his Dunciads (1729, 1743). Textual criticism was seen by Pope as another misguided Modern critical practice and as such fair game for satirical treatment. The importance of the publication of Lewis Theobald’s Shakespeare Restored (1726) is stressed for the writing of Pope’s The Dunciad Variorum (1729). The chapter mentions that the fictitious author of the editorial apparatus of this work is Martinus Scriblerus, already familiar from the Memoirs of Scriblerus. The change in hero to the actor and writer Colley Cibber (1671-1757) for Pope’s later The Dunciad in Four Books (1743) is discussed. A description of the life and work of Pope is also provided, which is necessary because the one informs the other. This is followed by a section on Pope’s first target as a textual critic, Lewis Theobald. The latter’s ideas about the editor’s responsibilities and his suitability for the role of textual critic are discussed. Several examples of his emendations to Pope’s edition are presented and discussed, along with an examination of the portrayal of Lewis Theobald in The Dunciad Variorum (1729). The satirical reception of Richard Bentley in The Dunciad in Four Books (1743) is examined, followed by an analysis of the paratext in the work of the Scriblerians and of the notes of Martinus Scriblerus in The Dunciad Variorum (1729). Finally, there is a brief examination of later works by writers other than Pope which were inspired by the figure of Martinus Scriblerus. In assembling the evidence for this thesis, I was largely guided by the search for literature about the virtuoso. Once the innovation of the virtuosi at the Royal Society became apparent, the choice of the antiquary and the textual critic as companions in the New Learning followed easily enough. The formal diversity used by the satirists to express their opposition is fascinating from a literary critical point of view. The matter is clear, construing the manner now follows.editor’s responsibilities and his suitability for the role of textual critic are discussed. Several examples of his emendations to Pope’s edition are presented and discussed, along with an examination of the portrayal of Lewis Theobald in The Dunciad Variorum (1729). The satirical reception of Richard Bentley in The Dunciad in Four Books (1743) is examined, followed by an analysis of the paratext in the work of the Scriblerians and of the notes of Martinus Scriblerus in The Dunciad Variorum (1729). Finally, there is a brief examination of later works by writers other than Pope which were inspired by the figure of Martinus Scriblerus. In assembling the evidence for this thesis, I was largely guided by the search for literature about the virtuoso. Once the innovation of the virtuosi at the Royal Society became apparent, the choice of the antiquary and the textual critic as companions in the New Learning followed easily enough. The formal diversity used by the satirists to express their opposition is fascinating from a literary critical point of view. The matter is clear, construing the manner now follows.
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