Samuel Butler and the rhetoric of development : a study of the contribution Butler's literary imagination made towards the writing of his prose works

Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2011
Thesis identifier
  • T13097
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • The abundance of literary devices Butler employs in his prose works has often been interpreted as evidence of satirical intent. This thesis challenges this position by illustrating how sophisticated assumptions about language and rhetoric often lie behind the form in which Butler cast his thought. Centrally important is Butler's realisation, aged 23, that his intellectual development had been arrested by an education in which vested interests had disguised themselves as rational argument. This crisis, it is argued, left Butler with an awareness that language is always open to manipulation; that multiple competing interpretations can coexist; and that behind every interpretation there is always an intention. Taking a chronological approach, the thesis considers the evolutionary writings and The Fair Haven to show how the formal qualities of these texts both embody and develop these preoccupations. Central are the following aims: - To expose the inadequacy of existing classifications of Butler as 'satirist'. - To provide a thorough account of the origin and development of Butler's later stated belief in the metaphorical basis of language. - To argue that any analysis of Life and Habit which does not consider how it developed from the early, more imaginative machine sketches is necessarily limited. - To suggest that the value of Life and Habit might better be understood with reference to William James' pragmatic philosophy rather than a natural theology framework. - To address a long-standing critical problem with a new reading of 'The Christ Ideal' chapter of The Fair Haven. - To provide a sustained critical analysis of Butler's close-reading strategy in the later evolutionary essays and show this to be a consistent expression of his pseudo-Lamarckian beliefs in the primacy of authorial intention.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2011
Former identifier
  • 943817