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Enlightenment and Romance

Gender and Agency in Smollett and Scott

Robert P. Irvine

This study places the novels of Tobias Smollett and Walter Scott in two critical contexts: the rise, from the middle of the eighteenth century, of the discourses of the human or social sciences; and the dominance of the novel by women writers throughout the eighteenth century. It argues that both authors, so often seen as paradigmatically masculine, in fact use the discourses of feminine romance or the domestic novel to figure authorial control over narrative structure. It suggests that they do so in order to combine utopian plot-endings, enacting a nostalgic tory ideology, with an essentially deterministic account of history and society, borrowed from the human sciences of the Scottish Enlightenment.
Contents: Smollett, the failure of satire, and the appropriation of the feminine voice – Enlightenment science, Romance plot and feminine epistolary discourse in Guy Mannering Rob Roy and two versions of modernity: as political economy and as polite discourse – The state, the domestic and national culture in the Waverley novels.