The uncertain position of Tobias Smollett in studies of the novel must be reconsidered when his final texts, The History and Adventures of an Atom (1769) and The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771), are examined in terms of the consumer revolution and in light of contemporary scientific advances in the study of "mediums." Smollett, with an anxious eye towards the acceleration of print production and consumption during his lifetime, and keenly aware of a medical discourse that increasingly emphasized the human body as porous and involuntarily affected by its environment, turns in his final texts to remediation in an attempt to make print visible as a uniquely transformative medium. Smollett's later career illuminates a different configuration than that normally presented in current studies of the novel in the eighteenth century: one in which texts appear not as consumer products but as omnipresent mediums, and where reading has become an involuntary bodily function rather than a voluntary act. This configuration looks forward to the contested status of print at the outset of the Romantic period..
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Literature and Literary Theory