Date of Completion


Embargo Period



English Literature, Women's Literature

Major Advisor

Jean I. Marsden

Associate Advisor

Thomas Recchio

Associate Advisor

Sarah Winter

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access



John Locke had a profound influence on the eighteenth century as writers and readers embraced new ways of thinking about themselves and society within the pull of the Enlightenment’s trajectory. As the harbinger of new cultural and intellectual forces, Locke was both the messenger and the message of Enlightenment’s bloom that recast eighteenth-century thought. This dissertation examines Locke’s influence on novelist Sarah Fielding (1710-1768), specifically exploring Fielding’s explicit preoccupation with Lockean philosophy in three of her novels: The Adventures of David Simple (1744), The Governess, or The Little Female Academy (1749), and The Cry: A New Dramatic Fable (1754). I examine Fielding’s expression of Locke’s emphasis on internal consciousness and its expression through language and the empirical education of her characters. Fielding’s philosophical language replicates much of Locke’s on matters of knowledge, identity, and education. By examining Fielding’s Lockean context, this dissertation argues that Fielding occupies an important space in women’s writing that bridges the so-called gap between Mary Astell (1666-1731) and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). Furthermore, I examine Fielding’s fiction in the context of Locke’s destabilizing designs of personal identity, liberty, power, and education that dismantle the intellectual and social fences surrounding women in eighteenth century England. By exploring Fielding’s integration of philosophy into her fiction, this dissertation argues for a deeper understanding of the eighteenth-century novel as a powerful vehicle for transmitting new possibilities for the individual subject, for inviting self-examination of both male and female readers of all classes and for demonstrating democratization of knowledge through strong female characters. In particular, I examine the selected novels in the Lockean context of individualism, epistemology, language, and education.