English Language and Literature ETDs


Calinda Shely

Publication Date



In this dissertation I explore the way in which visual and literary representations of gout in British literature and popular culture during the period 1744-1826 evince anxieties regarding over-consumption, particularly in relation to imperial expansion. I argue that the prevalence of gout in graphic satire indicates a common cultural understanding and perception of upper-class over-consumption of food, alcohol, material goods, and sex that threatens the health of the entire British body politic. These depictions provide a way through which the interests of those outside of the ruling classes can begin to develop a sense of community and subtly articulate a voice calling for an alteration or revision of the unwritten constitution of the nation. In chapters one through three I demonstrate the ways in which examples of gout in graphic satire evidence widespread dissatisfaction with upper-class over-consumption as it affects the nations political, economic, and social systems. In chapter four I examine representations of gouty men of the aristocracy and upper gentry in Sarah Fielding's The Countess of Dellwyn and Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Roderick Random; I contend that Fielding and Smollett offer rather more radical and nuanced depictions of this stock figure than those common within the graphic satire of the era. These authors' representations thus offer greater possibilities for revision of the unwritten constitution structuring the nation and its institutions. In chapter five I argue that Samuel Richardson's Clarissa depicts Mr. Harlowe as a nouveau riche character representative of the changing physiognomy of the upper classes; his over-consumption demonstrates the contagious nature of immoderation and the tragic effects that it has upon women, who are treated as commodities used to enable further aggregation and aggrandizement.'

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Level of Degree


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First Advisor

Houston, Gail

Second Advisor

Woodward, Carolyn

First Committee Member (Chair)

Hunt, Aeron

Second Committee Member

Haynie, Aeron

Third Committee Member

Brandzel, Amy




eighteenth-century British novel; graphic satire; grotesque; gout; over-consumption

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