Henry Fielding's Epistolary Voices: Polyphony and the Embedded Letter in Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and Amelia
Henry Fielding's Epistolary Voices: Polyphony and the Embedded Letter in Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and AmeliaBridget Brennan, Ph.D.Director: Christopher Wheatley, Ph.D.This study explores the polyphonic nature of Henry Fielding's writing by analyzing the relationship between narrative voice and the embedded letter in his three major novels: Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and Amelia. More specifically, it establishes that the voices of the narrators, who have traditionally been considered Fielding's spokesmen, are not the only authoritative voices present in his works. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin's theories for its discussion of Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, this dissertation demonstrates how the embedded letter, because of its inherent structural independence, not only allows other voices to enter the novels, it also grants these voices an authority equal to the narrator's. Fielding adopts a radically different narrative persona in his final novel, Amelia, and this change affects his use of the embedded letter. In Amelia, the most overtly polyphonic of the three novels, Fielding replaces the controlling narrator of the previous novels with an inconsistently-drawn figure who offers the reader little commentary or guidance. Consequently, the letter is no longer used as a way to give voice to opposing ideologies without undermining the consistency and authority of the narrator; instead, in the absence of a stable, moral guide, it becomes a forum through which the author's own voice and ideology enters the text. This study's exploration of the polyphonic nature of Fielding's novels brings to light previously unacknowledged complexities in the novels and refutes traditionally held beliefs that Fielding's works contain only a single narrow and clearly defined fictional universe.
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