Empiricism and the Early Theory of the Novel is a book about the empiricist challenge to literature, and its influence on eighteenth-century theories of fiction. British empiricism from Bacon to Hume challenged the notion that imaginative literature can be a reliable source of knowledge. This book argues that theorists of the novel, from Henry Fielding to Jane Austen, recognized the force of the empiricist challenge but refused to capitulate. It traces how, in their reflections on the novel, these writers attempted to formulate a theoretical link between the world of experience and the products of the imagination, and thus update the old defenses of poetry for empirical times. Taken together, the empiricist challenge and the responses it elicited signaled a transition in the longstanding debate about literature and knowledge, as an inaugural round in the persisting conflict between the empirical sciences and the literary humanities.
Roger Maioli is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Florida. Born and raised in Brazil, he holds a PhD in English from Johns Hopkins University and an MA in English Literary Studies from the University of São Paulo. In addition to articles in SEL, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, and The Shandean, he authored the first Brazilian translation of Henry Fielding's Joseph Andrews, as well as his first book Empiricism and the Early Theory of the Novel in 2016.