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date: 19 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In The Dunciad in Four Books Pope aimed his satire at the literary and intellectual world of eighteenth-century London, and especially its scholars, editors, and publishers. But Pope’s satire is also directed against contemporary developments in religion and theology. This chapter argues that Pope attacks fashionable ideas about the nature of God and the material world in The Dunciad as a way to explore his own ideas about the complex, often-paradoxical nature of imaginative fiction. Through allusions to the religious debates of his day, Pope encourages readers to link theological anxieties about the individual’s relationship to unseen truth with conceptual uncertainties about the power of literary fictions; to see that fiction, like religion, mediated between unknowable human interiority and the visible external world, and thus occupied an ambiguous, unstable position in relation to empirical phenomena.

Keywords: Pope, Dunciad, Milton, religion, Warburton, Divine Legation of Moses, freethinking, Paradise Lost, fictionality, imagination

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