Amanda Burgess and Glenice Woodard

ENG 563

Dr. Morillo


Joseph Andrews

If they can’t necessarily agree on how they feel about the issues, it is undeniably clear that the critics find much in common in their opinions about which of the issues are most important in Joseph Andrews.  The themes of class and social construction, the role of the author and narrator, and the role of the interpolated tales, were found throughout most, if not all, of the current research on Fielding’s much discussed novel.  Even the articles whose primary focus did not center on a particular one of these three main themes found ways of referencing or including a second major theme.  Hopefully the scholarship presented in this bibliography will bring some clarity to the varieties of interpretation available to readers . . . or, perhaps not.


Black, Joseph.  “Anachronism and the Uses of Form in Joseph AndrewsNovel: A Forum on Fiction 38.2 (2005): 147–164.

To say that Joseph Andrews is full of layers and double irony is no small understatement.  In his article, Scott Black points out that, in contrast to the work of Samuel Richardson, Fielding does not offer a realistic model that one is instructed to follow, but instead only “ironic models that make no claim to be real and don’t ask to be realized” and it is this layer of double irony that structures Fielding’s work (148).  Black believes that Fielding has created a form which doesn’t encourage the reader toward self-improvement, but instead “offers a space for a practice of reading in which to suspend that kind of work and ask different questions” (148).  The variety of forms contained in the novel, and their endless ability to be reused, create what Black labels a new formalism (162). 

Fielding achieves this new formalism through layering a variety of discourse styles throughout the novel and, often, specifically within a given paragraph.  When Adams rescues Fanny from attempted rape “the three participants in the scene, the ‘modern Hero’ (who uses the language of fighting), Adams (the language of classical poetry), and the narrator (plain English)” each comment on the scene, and the variation in discourse styles each undercut the other.  The narrator himself is given the role of juggler, who “keeps description moving by shifting terms in order to prevent any one discourse from settling into a stable register that could be mistaken for the kind of representation it’s the novel’s project to critique” (150).  In other cases Fielding simply states outright his refusal to use language.  The irony, of course, is that the novel as a genre is generally expected to perfect description, rather than block it, as Black points out (150).  This consistent shifting of layers, in effect, levels the playing field among language. 

Black further believes that Fielding’s use of multiple models over a singular model “constitutes Fielding’s most forceful response to Pamela” because “for every gesture from ‘general lessons’ to particular applications in Joseph Andrews, there is an equal and opposite gesture from particulars to generals, from specific situations to the many and varies forms that name, rename, and misname them” (152).  In short, Fielding cannot, in fact refuses to, be read for any one particular lesson.  Further, the fact that the reader is required to sort through the variety of forms achieves one of Fielding’s goals, which is to teach a new kind of reading that learns to ask the right questions.


Cruise, James. "Precept, Property and ‘Bourgeois’ Practice in Joseph Andrews." Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 37 (1997): 535–552.

James Cruise argues that in order to make his bid for the direction in which the novel should go, Henry Fielding made a special effort with Joseph Andrews to replace Pamela’s  “over pronounced morality” which Richardson was able to attain by way of a first person narration that shows Pamela to be both  “self-interested and ‘bourgeois.’”  The two methods chosen by Fielding to accomplish this are: 1) He creates an authorial presence immediately in the preface and 2) He removes the narrator from the action, thereby doing away with the ambiguity inherent  in Pamela based on the fact that she is the sole author of her own story.  The problem, according to Cruise, is that the bold move made by Fielding is not enough to allow him the success that he refuses to allow Richardson.  He argues that the “bourgeois engine” in Joseph Andrews is so complex that Fielding loses control; regardless of his “artistic intention,” Fielding is trying to fix something that he does not fully understand.  Fielding had already written non-narrative prose about the social and political climate of his day, proving that he did not need to use high art to attack the bourgeoisie.  In an effort to expose a self indulgent landed gentry, Fielding joins rank with them by means of his ownership of this narrative.  Cruise suggests that by leaving out any reference to specifics of the then current political climate, Fielding's “authorship” functions proprietarily.  Because Fielding divides the role of author into two distinct entities: 1) “public persona ‘author’” and 2) “alter-ego ‘narrator’ who performs the necessary duties of authorship” he is able to “‘speak’ the role of author in his preface and then ‘act’ it out in the ensuing narrative.  Whereas author Fielding enjoys the luxury of postulating and theorizing, divorced from practice, narrator Fielding—the side immersed in fiction—must balance the demands of authoring while practicing the business of storytelling (537).  The same kinds of excesses that were going on socially were also going on politically, but because of its unsettled affiliations throughout, authorship competes against itself and, as if by default, settles into a ‘bourgeois sensibility,’ not unlike Pamela's” (537). 

Fielding’s Preface, rather than information, communicates authority.   Cruise contends that he is using a “rhetorical ploy” in an attempt to lure readers into the acceptance of Joseph Andrews as “a departure from the typical romance” (538).  Cruise’s opinion is that while Joseph Andrews did engage in a war of words with Pamela, “Fielding’s campaign could do nothing to humble Richardson, let alone to refute the bourgeois premise that marries a serving girl to three estates and one man of an ancient family.  The more direct road to improvement will always have greater appeal in the bourgeois world.  In the end, Joseph Andrews is tied back to back, inevitably and inexorably to Pamela in more ways than one” (549–50).


Gautier, Gary. “Marriage and Family in Fielding’s Fiction” Studies in the Novel 27 (1995):


Believing that the issues of marriage and family have been largely neglected in

Fielding studies, Gautier makes the argument that, despite a few specific exceptions, Fielding’s politics in both areas are largely conservative.  It is only on the issue of marriage that Fielding might be described as “moderate” because he implies that marriages in which a single partner is dominant and another submissive, regardless of the gender identity of the individuals, are negative (112).  In the issue of class Fielding is even more conservative, gentrifying his characters before marriage – “a move which at once privileges the gentry and secures the endogamy injunction” (119). 

Fielding does seem willing to grant intellectual equality to women, but as Gautier points out, “the political stance is for separate education and separate duties, while on the ideological level essentialism is rejected and utilitarianism, or practicality, is adopted as the authorizing discourse behind the conservative politics” (115).  The Wilson marriage in Joseph Andrews is seen as the primary example of a rejection by Fielding of the dominant/submissive model and an endorsement instead of a “separate but equal” mentality (115).  However, Gautier points out that, though granting mutual respect to women within marriage, Fielding “guarantees continued male domination in the public sphere” (120).  This is seen in Fielding’s negative portrayal of women who have been given control of the family finances, such as Lady Booby.  When forced to choose between an endorsement of patriarchy and matriarchy, Fielding chooses patriarchy, as evidenced in the scene when Adams and Lady Booby return to the main house and though both are welcomed, Adams is given preference by the people.  Thus, “Lady Booby’s matriarchal government is portrayed as a government gone awry” (122).  Ultimately Fielding does nothing to shift the status quo of gender identity. 

Regarding endogamy, Fielding is (perhaps surprisingly) even more conservative than Richardson.  In Pamela the lovers “blatantly violate the endogamy injunction,” and thus prove the restriction to be expendable.  Gautier believes that Fielding could have chosen to imitate Richardson in this manner or, alternately, “he could have the lovers violate the injunction with tragic results, showing [it] to be vicious,” but Fielding chooses to completely avoid the issue be giving equal class to Joseph and Fanny which rids him of “the threat to class endogamy.  It is a patently conservative move” (118).  In the end, Gautier’s article is enlightening, if unsurprising.  His claims about Fielding’s conservatism are authentic and convincing, but not particularly creative or exhaustive. 


Lund, Roger D. “Augusten Burlesque and the Genesis of Joseph AndrewsStudies in Philosophy 103.1 (2006): 88–119.

Despite Fielding’s outright statements to the contrary, Roger Lund believes that critical scholarships should take a second look at the presence or absence of burlesque in Joseph Andrews.  According to Lund, the novel should be read less as an emerging new genre and more as a composite in which the rise of the novel and the decline of burlesque find an intersection (119). 

While Fielding claims to have invented a new genre, he also claims to follow with deliberate and complete uniformity, the classical model.  This, says Lund, is “an oxymoronic assertion that links him clearly with the expectations of Augustan burlesque” (91).  Not only does Fielding claim to have modeled the classics, but he also states that Joseph Andrews has been “Written in Imitation of The Manner of Cervantes”—a novel certainly identified as burlesque.  The decision to model Cervantes, Lund points out, “commits Fielding to a series of accommodations with the very form he claims to have rejected” (93).  Parson Adams is the obvious parallel to Cervantes’ Quixote—a somewhat surprising choice since it’s puts a clergyman in a position of ridicule.  Having chosen that path, Fielding “seeks to transform ridicule from an instrument of satire or a gesture of the burlesque into a feature of the comic” (97).    Lund continues to call attention to Fielding’s choices, raising the question of why, in a novel claiming to having nothing to do with burlesque, does he devote such a particular attention to ridicule.  This question can be answered, according to Lund, by understanding the preface of Joseph Andrews “not as a rejection but as a modernization of burlesque principles” (98). 

Fielding’s parodies of both Richardson’s Pamela as well as the works of the ancients are both considered by Lund to contain significant burlesque elements, and these are most strongly seen in the character of Joseph as the mock-hero.  Joseph is, however, deliberately portrayed as both genuinely heroic as well as a mock-heroic parody of ancient literature.  Again, Lund asks why, if the intention was comedy and not burlesque, did Fielding “lavish such care on travesties and mock-heroic set pieces that brought the monstrosity of burlesque to mind?” (111).

Lund’s arguments certainly raise good and relevant questions, particularly about the trustworthiness of Fielding as the author.  Despite the majority critical opinion that Fielding wrote his Preface in earnest, Lund’s article asks us to second guess those assumptions by reconsidering the author’s claim that his novel is not burlesque after all.


Pagliaro, Harold. “The Novels and Other Prose Fiction.” Henry Fielding: A Literary Life. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. 136–151.

If Henry Fielding were looking for a publicist, he could not find a better one than Harold Pagliaro.  His glowing panegyric of Fielding and his “comic epic-poem in prose” is supportive of every single aspect of Joseph Andrews.  Like most critics, he acknowledges that Joseph Andrews is Fielding’s response to Pamela that “offers an alternative form and purpose of the novel” (136) while simultaneously presenting “an alternative view of love and marriage” (136).  He touts the comic genius of the novel while asserting its critical portrayal of real life.  He also defends the novel against those who would say the novel has no interiority.  He states in no uncertain terms  that Fielding’s “interest in interiority runs deep, but the method of his art is generally to imply how the mind is working by the close regard of the behavior it compels” (137).  He contends that Fielding intentionally provides the reader with his characters exteriority for the sole purpose of affording the reader the opportunity to infer what is not seen.  Fielding is confident in his own ability to depict the speech and actions of his characters in such a way that his readers will readily comprehend their interiority (138). 

Next he speaks to Fielding’s clever assumption of the role of both overseer and reporter to the end of maintaining “control of the evidence on which inferences may be drawn” (139) and describes “Fielding the Storyteller [as] the creator-historian, the unembarrassed narrative manipulator, and the authoritative ironist who invites us to measure the distance between a character’s public side and interior state” (140).

Pagliaro then goes on to define and explain what it is that makes an epic so that he can play up the parallels between this novel and the epic, despite some insignificant resemblances to romance or the picaresque.  It is the structure of this book that supports Fielding’s claims that it is indeed comedic rather than burlesque, and it is unquestionably epic.  Where we have questioned who the hero might be, Pagliaro had determined that both Parson Adams and Joseph fulfill the role of hero; “Joseph Andrews,” he says, “is an account of the journey from London to the country: to Adam’s parish (sacred) rather than to Lady Booby’s estate (profane).  Adams and Joseph share the experience of other epic characters who travel physically and spiritually towards home, such a Odysseus and Aeneas” (145).

            Finally, he covers the Biblical aspect of the novel, referring to Parson Adams as “the good shepherd” who leads his flock (Fanny and Joseph) to the ultimate fulfillment of the “stability and permanence of home…achieved within the sacred limits of temperance and charity” (146).  He is impressed with the “complex ending” and the way in which Fielding’s characters, rather than being a parody of Richardson’s, contrast them “with brilliant effect” (151). 


Stephanson, Raymond. "'Silenc'd by Authority' in Joseph Andrews: Power, Submission, and Mutuality in 'The History of Two Friends'" Studies in the Novel 24 (1992): 1–12.

This particular essay was cited by several of the other articles we read, so although it was written 24 years ago, we thought it noteworthy enough to be included here as it is an especially interesting essay that offers a feasible interpretation of the third interpolation in Joseph Andrews.

            Raymond Stephanson begins by pointing out that the interpolated stories in JA are "replayings" of the central themes and of "concentrated repositionings of fundamental issues concerning the narrator-reader relationship" (1).  Generally readers agree that these stories either: 1) parallel or contrast themes, characters, or ideas from the main plot 2) are literary devices used to make ironic comments about the chapters in closest proximity to them, 3) "they have a intertextual or allusive function," or 4) "they throw into relief the novel's status as art and our presence as readers” (1).  He points out that most of the critical interpretations that address them focus on the first two tales while the last one has been treated more as an unfortunate, abnormal projection.  Stephanson suggests this last tale be considered from a "metafictional" perspective.  His argument is that "the third interpolation and its framework explore the satisfactory and unsatisfactory conditions which issue from various kinds of narrative power and different responses to that authority" (2).  He goes into detail about the two sides of Fielding's treatment of his readership, one being that the reader is required to submit to his assertive power as narrator, and the second that the reader is invited and expected to participate in the critical interpretation of the work.  Actually, the author of this third digressive story is Lady Booby.   When this story is seen as a commentary on narrator-reader relationship, "her demand for a reading 'without Interruption' is really an argument for a narrator-reader relationship in which the reader submits uncritically to the authority of the text or, more specifically here, to her authority to orchestrate the scene of reading and its conditions" (4).  What is significant here is not so much the story itself, rather the situation of the story with Lady Booby playing the role of authorial authority and Parson Adams, the prurient reader who craves plot and refuses to answer the challenge of "critical resistance to narratives" as any good reader should (5).

            According to Stephanson, "the inner plot of the third interpolation [also contains] metafictional implications" with Paul holding the position of author-narrator (7).  There are, however, two possibilities for interpretation, the first being that Paul's "advice concerning the relationship between Leonard and wife reflect Fielding's preferred balance of authority and submission between reader and narrative," and the second—and more likely according to Stephanson—is the relationship between the couple and Paul which conveys "Fielding's recommendation of mutuality" using Paul as his surrogate (7).   


Williams, Jeffrey.  “The Narrative Circle: The Interpolated Tales in Joseph Andrews.”  Studies in the Novel 30.4 (1998): 473–488.

In a somewhat atypical angle of attack, Williams tackles the role of the interpolated tales in Joseph Andrews by declaring them, not quite simply, unrealistic.  Williams claims that, up until the 1960s, no one considered the tales as anything more than inept flaws.  Williams attempts to second that claim, stating that “this representation is charged rhetorically in excess of any naturalistic scene” in which the time and place for the narrative, as well as the tales themselves and their “extraordinarily receptive” audience is exaggerated beyond believability (475). 

Of particular interest is Williams’ point that the narratives create a “utopic” storyworld in which class differences are completed leveled as all characters join in the storytelling rapture, despite the fact the remainder of the novel “confirms and asserts the hierarchy of those social relations” (477).  He goes on to make the claim that the narrative tales can be considered allegorical representations which override the normal plot.  The characters in the tales then function “less in these instances as actants in Joseph’s story than as allegorical registers…as Narrative Curiosity, Narrative Desire, Narrative Fellowship and so on” (478).  To Parson Adams Williams ascribes the persona of Narrative Desire/Curiousity and claims that he is made to embody Lust by being “figured in terms of innate appetite, fusing the appetities of hunger (his ‘Ears were the most Hungary part about him,’ licking his lips) and sex (‘heartily desirous’), and transposing them to a kind of irrepressible and socially countenanced lust for narrative” (480).  It is not only Adams that is made to be Curious.  Williams claims that the entire novel is an effort in raising Curiosity and involving the reader in elevating the power of story to the same level of the basic human compulsions of food and sex (482).

Despite the unique and interesting points raised by Williams, he seems to lose track of his originally stated purpose that he intends to address the ineptness of the narrative tales and their poor placement in the novel.  Rather, he seems to have increased interest in understanding their role and the many ways in which they can function in Fielding’s work.