Uneasy Sensations: Smollet and the Body

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The 18th-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. The author draws on feminist and other theoretical perspectives to reassess Smollett's 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 18th-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 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.