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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Melancholic Satires: Forms of Embodied Critique in the Eighteenth Century
by Cortes, Phillip James Martinez, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2020, 313; 28002264
Abstract (Summary)

Melancholic Satires argues that eighteenth-century satires invite readers to become more aware that their bodies always unsettle their minds. Scholars traditionally define satire as a normative mode of criticism that uses wit and humour to denounce deviations from moral standards. These scholars have not yet considered that these texts mobilize anti-normative practices of resisting structures of domination through bodily and passionate criticism. My project introduces the affects of passion and the body as valid objects of inquiry in the field of satire studies. Authors such as Jane Collier, Anne Finch, Alexander Pope, Tobias Smollett, and Jonathan Swift develop what I call “melancholic satires”, ones that not only present a figure with a melancholic perspective, but also convey passionate rhetoric that evokes the disruptive body’s influence on the mind. Medical theorists pathologize that the body’s humours and passions destabilize the mind into the delusional state known as melancholy, and moral philosophers recommend the moderation of the disruptive passions as virtuous conduct. These skeptical accounts understand that the passions represent unstable sense-impressions, and they suspiciously believe that the passions can disrupt rational thinking. Instead, eighteenth-century satires advocate that melancholic destabilization can beneficially inspire the mind into subversive critique. For instance, in Smollett’s Humphry Clinker, Matthew Bramble’s sickly feelings influence him into criticizing that London’s commercialism represents a diseased condition. Bramble’s sensitivity to his diseased body enables his satirical sensitivity to commercial excess. Moreover, in Finch’s poem The Spleen, her speaker articulates a sensitivity to her melancholic spleen in order to critically reject misogynistic views that limit women’s occupations to the domestic sphere. My project proposes that understanding eighteenth-century satires requires the analysis of how these texts’ affective and corporeal rhetoric persuades audiences of the perverse virtues of embodied sensitivity. Melancholic Satires contends that satirical literature champions the emotional foundations of social commentary.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Warner, William B.
Commitee: Cook, Elizabeth Heckendorn, Kearney, James
School: University of California, Santa Barbara
Department: English
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Literature
Keywords: Affects, Embodiment, Literary form, Melancholy, Passions, Satire
Publication Number: 28002264
ISBN: 9798672103518
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