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.
- Henry Fielding
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Literature and Literary Theory