Skip to main content

Uneasy Sensations

Smollett and the Body

The eighteenth-century comic novelist Tobias Smollett has often been criticized for the extreme physicality of his writing, which is full of scatological images and graphic depictions of bodily injury and disintegration.

Aileen Douglas draws on feminist and other new theoretical perspectives to reassess Smollett’s entire body of fiction as well as his classic Travels through France and Italy. Like many writers of his time, Douglas argues, Smollett was interested in the body and in how accurately it reflects internal disposition. But Smollett’s special contribution to the eighteenth-century novel is his emphasis on sentience, or the sensations of the physical body. Looking at such works as The Adventures of Roderick Random, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, and The History and Adventures of an Atom, Douglas explores the ways Smollett uses representations of sentience—especially torment and pain—in his critique of the social and political order.

Trained in medicine, Smollett was especially alert to the ways in which the discourses of medicine, philosophy, and law construct (as we would put it now) the body as an object of knowledge, and yet his work always returns to the importance of the physical world of the body and its feelings. Smollett reminds us, as Douglas aptly puts it, that "if you prick a socially constructed body, it still bleeds."

232 pages | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 1995

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Table of Contents

Note on Editions Used
1. The Body in Eighteenth-Century Narrative
2. "Matter out of Place": Travels through France and Italy
3. "Surrounded with Bodies": Social Experience in Roderick Random
4. The Troubled Female Body: The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle
5. "The Riggers of Authority": Fathom and Greaves
6. The Politics of Matter: The History and Adventures of an Atom
7. "The Frolick May Go Round": Bodies as Signs in Humphry Clinker

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press