Natural Masques: Gender and Identity in Fielding’s Plays and Novels

Jill Campbell
March 1995

Examining Fielding’s sustained, often ambivalent engagement with questions of gender, this text breaks with critical commonplaces that contrast Fielding’s robust masculinity with Richardson’s feminine sensibilities. Arguing that a preoccupation with the tenuousness of gendered identity appears throughout Fielding’s writings and that Fielding shared that preoccupation with his contemporaries, this book analyzes Fielding’s major works in connection with a variety of related texts - from satires on the castrati to educational treatises, Whig propaganda, and debates in political theory. Campbell shows how throughout Fielding’s writings, the suspicion that sexual roles are merely assumed - and therefore subject to alteration and appropriation - intimates the possibility that personal identity is always impersonated, incoherent and mutable.