The Impossible Observer

The Impossible Observer

Reason and the Reader in Eighteenth-Century Prose

Robert W. Uphaus


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Rationality, objectivity, symmetry: were these really principles urged and exemplified by eighteenth-century English prose? In this persuasive study, Robert W. Uphaus argues that, on the contrary, many of the most important works of the period do not actually lead the reader into a new awareness of just how problematical, how unsusceptible to reason, both the world and our easy assumptions about it are.

Uphaus discusses a broad range of writers—Swift, Defoe, Mandeyville, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne, Johnson, and Godwin—showing that beneath their variety lies a fundamentally similar challenge, addressed to the critical procedure which assumes that the exercise of reason is a sufficient tool for an understanding the appeal of imaginative literature.


Robert W. Uphaus:
Robert W. Uphaus is associate professor of English at Michigan State University.