Judging, inevitably: Aesthetic judgment and novelistic form in Fielding's Joseph Andrews

Vivasvan Soni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews is often thought to have inaugurated a tradition of sociological observation in the novel, and it also cultivates a practice of judgment in readers. Yet the social theory that informs Fielding's novel (Thomas Hobbes, Bernard Mandeville) is dominated by a sense of inevitability, whereas judgment concerns the things that can be otherwise. A close reading of Joseph Andrews shows that Fielding does not deploy uncritically the methods and assumptions of a nascent social theory. Rather, he teaches us that those methods and assumptions hold only for the advent of a commercial modernity that renders judgment all but obsolete. Refusing the sentimental (Richardsonian) and aesthetic (Shaftes-burian) responses to this social theory as also complicit in the elision of judgment, Fielding works to transform the emerging novel into a narrative and aesthetic form capable of restoring our capacity for judgment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-180
Number of pages22
JournalModern Language Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Henry Fielding
  • Judgment
  • Modernity
  • Sociology
  • Utopia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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