Date of Award

Fall 2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Dr. Steven Stryer

Second Advisor

Dr. Gregory Roper

Abstract

Alexander Pope’s Dunciad explicitly draws from major literary and philosophical texts ranging from the Bible to The Aeneid to Paradise Lost, but scholars have heretofore not observed how The Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius shapes and informs the text. After establishing the historical fact that Pope read and seriously engaged with Boethius, my thesis endeavors to establish a few key ways in which some of The Dunciad’s most famous puzzles are elucidated when read with an eye to The Consolation. Specifically, my thesis contends that the character of Lady Philosophy was one of the progenitor images Pope drew upon when inventing the goddess Dulness, just as the character-Boethius informed his descriptions of Tibbald and Cibber. Likewise, I argue that the Mock-Heroic Games of The Dunciad, Book II can be understood as the dunces’ attempt to obtain satisfaction in the “Lesser Goods” delineated by Boethius in The Consolation, Book III, i.e. bodily goods, pleasure, wealth, fame, honor, and power. Furthermore, I propose that the problem of the ivory gate at the end of Book III can be resolved by reading Tibbald/Cibber’s vision of the underworld as directly opposed to a Boethian understanding of fate and providence. Finally, I suggest that the “Problem of Power” in The Dunciad is satisfactorily answered by a Boethian understanding of the relationship between power and virtue.

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