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Ends of Enlightenment

About the Author

John Bender

John Bender's research and teaching focus on the eighteenth century in England and France. His special concerns include the relationship of literature to the visual arts, to philosophy and science, as well as to the sociology of literature and critical theory. He is on the faculty in both English and Comparative Literature. Bender is the author of Spenser and Literary Pictorialism (1972), Imagining the Penitentiary: Fiction and the Architecture of Mind in 18th-Century England (1987), which received the Gottschalk Prize of the American Society for 18th-Century Studies, and (as co-author with Michael Marrinan) The Culture of Diagram (2010).  He has published...

Stanford University Press
2012

Ends of Enlightenment explores three realms of eighteenth-century European innovation that remain active in the twenty-first century:  the realist novel, philosophical thought, and the physical sciences, especially human anatomy.  The European Enlightenment was a state of being, a personal stance, and an orientation to the world.  Ways of probing experience and knowledge in the novel and in the visual arts were interleaved with methods of experimentation in science and philosophy.  This book's fresh perspective considers the novel as an art but also as a force in thinking.  The critical distance afforded by a view back across the centuries allows Bender to redefine such novelists as Defoe, Fielding, Goldsmith, Godwin, and Laclos by placing them alongside philosophers and scientists like Newton, Locke, and Hume but also alongside engravings by Hogarth and by the anatomist William Hunter.  His book probes the kinship among realism, hypothesis, and scientific fact, defining in the process the rhetorical basis of public communication during the Enlightenment.