Ordinary Providence: Dryden's "absalom And Achitophel", Johnson's "life Of Savage", And Fielding's "tom Jones" In Relation To The Renaissance Tradition Of Historical And Psychological Mimesis

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Doctor of Philosophy


Critics have found polarities in works like Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, Johnson's Life of Savage, and Fielding's Tom Jones, between time and eternity, Fortune and Providence, imagination and reason, sympathy and judgment, and have argued that these authors choose one pole, not the other, or that they are confused, or that they suspend the works in tension between the poles. Such readings undervalue the dynamic coherence of these works. The thesis argues that these authors were sustained in their handling of these polarities in historical and psychological thought by the Renaissance literary tradition, by the way in which writers like More, Burton, and Milton evaluated inadequate and polarized ideas in dynamic, circumstantial mimeses.;Chapter I examines historical and psychological ideas during the Renaissance, demonstrating the continuity of polarities between Fortune and Providence, imagination and reason, from Erasmus through Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke to Hume. Then follows a description of mimesis, using examples from Utopia, The Anatomy of Melancholy, and Paradise Lost. These fictions represent God working providentially through the distorted actions of men in time, and they draw the readers into a reintegrative psychological process.;The following chapters examine the case studies. Dryden's mimesis of various responses to God's justice and mercy is sustained by Renaissance psychology and by the historical mimesis of Paradise Lost. The King and the narrator at first confuse liberty with libertinism, but in response to the history represented in the poem, the King speaks at the end with truly Godlike mercy based on justice. Richard Savage is a melancholic whose fantasies disjoined from memory exacerbate the extremes of his experience. Like Democritus Junior, Johnson the narrator enacts and draws his readers into the process of harmonizing imagination and memory in response to Savage's history. In Tom Jones various characters, including the narrator, express a range of ideas about Fortune and Providence which are evaluated in the context of the mimesis. The readers, like Tom, learn an imaginative prudence by observing God's providence working through particular yet typical individuals and events in a community in time.

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