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Look Inside Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel

Chance and the Eighteenth-Century Novel
Realism, Probability, Magic


  • Date Published: July 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107425583

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About the Authors
  • The rise and popular awareness of the science of probability in the eighteenth century was accompanied by an equally great interest in the anti-probable: lotteries, tarot readings, and gambling. In this study, Jesse Molesworth analyses the relationship between realism, probability and chance in eighteenth-century fiction. In a variety of readings, both literary and cultural, he investigates works by Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne, in the context of the rise of lottery addiction, Hoyle's whist, and tarot cartomancy. Both a reassessment of the early development of the novel and a contribution to recent work on realism and fiction, this book suggests connections between narrative and mathematics that reveal a darker, more transgressive, side to the novel. Rather than a rational expression of Enlightenment truths, the novel reaches out to older, more superstitious views as it tries to combine the attractions of chance with the consolations of reason.

    • An original new interpretation of narrative and realism
    • Illustrated with several eighteenth-century prints
    • New readings of Fielding and Defoe
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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107425583
    • length: 286 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: can the novel enlighten?
    Part I. Chance, Plot, Magic:
    1. Fortune's fools: the novel and the lottery fantasy
    2. Two predictions on the fate of gambling and probability theory
    Part II. Epistemologies of the Eighteenth-Century Novel:
    3. Defoe and the statistical (il)logic of the novel
    4. Narrative games in the novels of Henry Fielding
    5. Humean fictions: Amelia, Tristram Shandy, and the problem of induction
    Part III. The Return of Coincidence:
    6. Natural preternaturalism: the Gothic novel and the rise of Tarot cartomancy
    Coda: Sade and the supermundane realm
    Works cited

  • Author

    Jesse Molesworth, Indiana University
    Jesse Molesworth is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2003 and served as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at The Johns Hopkins University from 2006–8.

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