Novel Authority
: Eliza Haywood and the Problem of Judgment

  • Sarah Demarest

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis disrupts competing interpretations about Eliza Haywood’s sexual attitudes and political alliances by focusing on the innovative elements of her work that foster the multiguity that leads to such debates. Specifically, this thesis argues that, throughout her work, Haywood is in dialogue with the maledominated sceptical tradition. Haywood, by employing the narrative elements of various genres that put pressure on the tensions between scepticism and credulity—genres such as apparition narratives, mock-history, travel narratives, and legal discourse—engages with debates about knowledge and judgment that troubled her contemporaries and dominated print culture. By doing so, she unsettles and challenges conventional understandings of scepticism that privilege custom and tradition. Most studies of eighteenth-century scepticism and literature neglect work by women writers, including Haywood; therefore, this study also challenges conventional understandings of what constitutes sceptical literature in the eighteenth century. As a woman writer, Haywood privileges scepticism over credulity even as she challenges custom and seeks to discover a reliable standard of judgment that is functional in a liberal society. To this end, Haywood fosters and develops the judgment and autonomy of her readers by either shifting authority onto them, or by offering model standards of judgment for them. This thesis examines four works from four genres across four decades of Haywood’s career: A Spy Upon the Conjurer (1724), The Adventures of Eovaai (1736), The Female Spectator (1744-1746), and The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy (1753). The first two chapters discuss the nature and development of Haywood’s extreme scepticism in the 1720s and 1730s. Chapters three and four show how, in the 1740s and 1750s, Haywood introduces processes of sociable judgment that begin to mitigate the scepticism of her earlier work
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorSarah Hutton (Supervisor) & Louise Marshall (Supervisor)

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