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Title: On Wit in Relation to Self-Division
Authors: Terekhov, Jessica
Advisors: DolvenNunokawa, JeffJeff
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: Early twentieth century
Eighteenth century
Moral philosophy
Nineteenth century
Social & religious criticism
Subjects: English literature
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation studies wit as the perception of similarity in dissimilarity, a definition imparted to modern authors from a long tradition of thought on comedy and figural expression. The first chapter considers the opposition between metaphysical wit and satire during the neoclassical period. This historical section introduces the problem posed by the conspicuous author figure, who commits rhetorical vices and puts his ingenuity before his subject. The themes of comedy, figuration, and self-reckoning are treated in the second section of the project, a study in the reception of ideas. Lord Shaftesbury’s defense of wit as raillery baits a long line of critics for appearing to pose ridicule as the test of truth, and the first of these chapters sets his work against its legacy for John Henry Newman. Where Shaftesbury recommends soliloquy as a means of self-regulation, thereby backing an alternative to conscience, Newman detects the onset of a precarious inward turn. In the second chapter of this middle section, T. S. Eliot’s reappraisal of the poetic conceit, which makes allowance for multiple perspectives and generates healthy obscurity, parallels Shaftesbury’s comic vein of civic discourse. Eliot appears to challenge his own point of view, however, by contesting the cultural prophecy of Matthew Arnold. Eliot finds that Arnold did his part to aestheticize religion by endorsing culture as a way beyond material values and philistinism. Arnold’s “best self” mentality verges on the “inner voice” school of humanism that, by Eliot’s time, champions an anthropocentric worldview. The crisscrossing engagements of these middle chapters take a final turn into the last segment of the dissertation, an analysis of George Meredith’s comic, figural, and personalized prose. The project loops back to its genesis in literary commentary and considers the remainder of a long division between the style and the substance of thought.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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