Jospeh Andrews as Comic Epic in Prose

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Joseph Andrews
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the novel. For the former Liberal Member of Parliament, see Joseph Andrews (politician). Joseph Andrews

Author(s)Henry Fielding

Original titleThe History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and His Friend, Mr. Abraham Adams CountryBritain

LanguageEnglish

Publication date1742
Media typeprint
Preceded byShamela, or An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews(1741)

Followed byThe Life and Death of Johnathan Wild, the Great (1743)

Joseph Andrews, or The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of his Friend Mr. Abraham Adams, was the first published full-length novel of the English author and magistrate Henry Fielding, and indeed among the first novels in the English language. Published in 1742 and defined by Fielding as a ‘comic epic poem in prose’, it is the story of a good-natured footman's adventures on the road home from London with his friend and mentor, the absent-minded parson Abraham Adams. The novel represents the coming together of the two competing aesthetics of eighteenth-century literature: the mock-heroic and neoclassical (and, by extension, aristocratic) approach ofAugustans such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift; and the popular, domestic prose fiction of novelists such as Daniel Defoe and Samuel Richardson. The novel draws on a variety of inspirations. Written "in imitation of the manner of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote" (see title page on right), the work owes much of its humour to the techniques developed by Cervantes, and its subject-matter to the seemingly loose arrangement of events,digressions and lower-class characters to the genre of writing known as picaresque. In deference to the literary tastes and recurring tropes of the period, it relies on bawdy humour, an impendingmarriage and a mystery surrounding unknown parentage, but conversely is rich in philosophicaldigressions, classical erudition and social purpose. Contents

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1 Background
2 Plot summary
o2.1 Book I
o2.2 Book II
o2.3 Book III
o2.4 Book IV
3 Stage Adaptation
4 Film adaptation
5 References
6 External links

[edit]Background
Fielding’s first venture into prose fiction came a year previously with the publication in pamphlet form of Shamela, a travesty of, and direct response to, the stylistic failings and moral hypocrisy that Fielding saw in Richardson’s Pamela. Richardson’s epistolary tale of a resolute servant girl, armed only with her ‘virtue’, battling against her master’s attempts at seduction had become an overnight literary sensation in 1741. The implicit moral message – that a girl’s chastity has eventual value as a commodity – as well as the awkwardness of the epistolary form in dealing with ongoing events, and the triviality of the detail which the form necessitates, were some of the main targets of Fielding’s parody. Richardson would continue to be a target of Fielding’s first novel, but the Pamela phenomenon was just one example of what he saw as a culture of literary abuses in the mid-18th century. Colley Cibber, poet laureate and mock-hero of Pope’s Dunciad, is identified in the first chapter of the novel as another offender against propriety, morality and literary value. The impetus for the novel, as Fielding claims in the preface, is the establishment of a genre of writing "which I do not remember to have been hitherto attempted in our language", defined as the "comic epic-poem in prose": a work of prose fiction, epic in length and variety of incident and character, in the hypothetical spirit of Homer’s lost (and possibly apocryphal) comic poem Margites. He dissociates his fiction from the scandal-memoir and the contemporary novel. Book III describes the work as biography. As becomes apparent from the first few chapters of the novel in which Richardson and Cibber are parodied mercilessly, the real germ ofJoseph Andrews is Fielding’s objection to the moral and...
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