The Eighteenth-Century Novel

Scott Robertson

in The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544486
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

The Eighteenth-Century Novel

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The eighteenth century provided the socio-economic, cultural, and philosophical conditions wherein the novel, a ‘new species of writing’, could flourish. The restive theological climate of the time, with its threatening extremes of enthusiasm and deism, also coloured the outlook of the pioneer novelists of the time. Reliance upon the providence of God in a world increasingly perceived as unstable served as a major thematic backcloth. This article traces a slow but steady movement in the presentation of the place of the divine from the somewhat artless representation of providence in the work of Daniel Defoe, through Samuel Richardson's world as a proving ground of suffering and redemption. It also examines Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy and Henry Fielding's attempts to reassure people with his Shaftesburian morality that all is well.

Keywords: providence; theism; Robinson Crusoe; Daniel Defoe; Samuel Richardson; Henry Fielding

Article.  8843 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Christianity

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