Roger Maioli

Assistant Professor

Roger Maioli

I specialize in British literature of the Long Eighteenth Century. My research interests include the history and theory of prose fiction and the intersection between imaginative literature and Enlightenment philosophy. In my first book, Empiricism and the Early Theory of the Novel (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2016), I argue that eighteenth-century theories of fiction anticipate, in quite substantial ways, modern arguments in defense of the literary humanities. Much of the theoretical reflection on the novel from Henry Fielding to Jane Austen emerged in response to an empirically-inflected suspicion of fictions—according to which imaginative narratives foster misconceptions about the world and our place in it. Defenders of the novel, in turn, sought to dispel that suspicion by arguing that stories that never happened, about people who never lived, can convey knowledge of the empirical world just as reliably as the factual narratives prized by the empiricists. The arguments they developed to that end have few precedents but many successors in the history of Western aesthetics. I propose that they inaugurated a new phase in the ancient debate about literature and knowledge, moving the conversation from an older Aristotelian framework towards a more modern one—that of the ever-fraught conflict between the humanities and the empirical sciences.

Being born and raised in Brazil, I hold an M.A. in English Literary Studies from the University of São Paulo (2006) and a PhD in English from Johns Hopkins University (2015). My surname, should you decide to use it, is pronounced My-oh-ly, but I am very comfortable with first names. Plain “Roger” is always welcome.

I published articles and book reviews in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, SEL–Studies in English Literature 1500–1900, The Shandean, Eighteenth-Century Novel, and Digital Defoe. In addition, I have an extensive output as an English–Portuguese translator. My translations include the first Brazilian edition of Fielding’s Joseph Andrews, Peter Burke’s Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe, M.T. Anderson’s The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.

I have taught courses in eighteenth-century British literature, the rise of the novel, literature and ethics, the history of aesthetics, and the debate over literature and knowledge. My current research and teaching interests include the rise of cultural and epistemic relativism in the eighteenth century, the gendering of aesthetics, the dialogue between British and French versions of the Enlightenment, and the longer history of prose narrative. Other than Jane Austen and the eighteenth-century usual suspects, I am a fan of Elizabeth Gaskell, Machado de Assis, William Somerset Maugham, Jorge Luis Borges, and Donald Duck.


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