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Parody, Scriblerian Wit and the Rise of the Novel

Parodic Textuality from Pope to Sterne

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Przemysław Uściński

Parody was a crucial technique for the satirists and novelists associated with the Scriblerus Club. The great eighteenth-century wits (Alexander Pope, John Gay, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne) often explored the limits of the ugly, the droll, the grotesque and the insane by mocking, distorting and deconstructing multiple discourses, genres, modes and methods of representation. This book traces the continuity and difference in parodic textuality from Pope to Sterne. It focuses on polyphony, intertextuality and deconstruction in parodic genres and examines the uses of parody in such texts as «The Beggar’s Opera», «The Dunciad», «Joseph Andrews» and «Tristram Shandy». The book demonstrates how parody helped the modern novel to emerge as a critical and artistically self-conscious form.

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Chapter Seven: Parody, Prosaics, and the Discourse of the Novel

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← 228 | 229 →

Chapter Seven Parody, Prosaics, and the Discourse of the Novel

Arabella having ordered one of her Women to bring Cleopatra, Cassandra, Clelia, and the Grand Cyrus, from her Library, Glanville no sooner saw the Girl return, sinking under the Weight of those voluminous Romances, but he began to tremble at the Apprehension of his Cousin laying her Commands upon him to read them; and repented at his Complaisance, which exposed him to the cruel Necessity of performing what to him appeared a Herculean Labour, or else incurring her Anger by his Refusal. Arabella, making her Woman place the Books upon a Table before her, opened them, one after another, with Eyes sparkling with Delight; while Glanville sat rapt in Admiration at the Sight of so many huge Folio’s, written, as he conceived, upon the most trifling Subjects imaginable. Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote

Henry Fielding, if we are to trust his narrator(s) in Tom Jones, did not value highly the novels of his time:

To invent good stories, and to tell them well, are possibly very rare talents, and yet I have observed few persons who have scrupled to aim at both: and if we examine the romances and novels with which the world abounds, I think we may fairly conclude, that most of the authors would not have attempted to show their teeth (if the expression may be allowed me) in any other way of writing; nor could...

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