University of Hertfordshire

Smollett and the Novel of Irritability

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

  • Gavin Budge
  • Sophie Vasset (Editor)
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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedicine and Narration in the Eighteenth Century
EditorsSophie Vasset
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherVoltaire Foundation
ISBN (Print)9780729410656
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

PublisherVoltaire Foundation
ISSN (Print)0435-2866


The problematic nature of Smollett’s narrative mode has been a central
focus of critical debate about his novels. This article proposes that the
discontinuity of Smollettian narrative can be usefully understood in the
context of the role played by the medical concept of irritability within
the paradigm of the mind as actively constructing sense experience,
which is put forward by philosophers of the Common Sense School. This
allows the thematics of irritability within Smollett’s novels to be understood
as continuous with a more general epistemological emphasis on
the discontinuities between ultimate principles, in a way which, the
article suggests, is also characteristic of Romanticism.

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