Adult Fiction · History · Nonfiction

History Paper Abstract – Novels and Human Rights

I was going to post about My Story Can Beat Up Your Story again today, but with the unexpected appearance of Ms. Marvel #8 and various other things going on, I haven’t had time to get into it and have decided to postpone that until next week. One of the “various other things” was me trying to get this abstract together to turn in to my adviser on Wednesday, so here you go! Things may flex and vary as I go along, but this is the preliminary direction for my undergrad senior thesis. (My adviser said very nice things about it, thanks for asking. 🙂 )

Working Title:Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded: Novels and Human Rights”


The history of popular sentiment may be one of the most difficult histories to trace. However, in the realm of popular literature and culture, it is possible to follow not only what people were thinking about, but sometimes why they were thinking it. A novel with a wide reach can illustrate the public’s interest in particular ideas at certain times, but under the right circumstances, such a novel may also change the public’s ideas and help create a new culture. This paper will take the example of Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, written by English author Samuel Richardson and published in 1740, to argue that Pamela was instrumental in bringing about human rights legislation in the 1700s and afterward. First, this paper will incorporate the history of literacy and literature to demonstrate how Pamela launched novels, especially epistolary novels, as a literary form. Then it will use contemporary reactions to Pamela, as well as modern research into the effects of novels on readers, to demonstrate how the novel built empathy in the public mindset. Empathy was a necessary precursor to human rights as a concept, leading to important human rights documents such as the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and eventually the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, so this paper will also touch on those impacts. Pamela is a novel of extreme importance in the history of literature, and is therefore also extremely important in the history of human rights.

13 thoughts on “History Paper Abstract – Novels and Human Rights

  1. This sounds fascinating. Good luck with the thesis writing. I know how stressful that can be! (And mine was really only twelve pages. Oof. But I also had an experiment I had to run as well as examining all the literature about the topic, so there’s that.)


    1. Thanks! Mine is 20 plus a poster presentation, but I’m very thankful I don’t have to do any kind of experiment or poll or anything. Political science majors have to do a survey or something, that would be terrifying. What was your topic?


      1. My experiment dealt with studying the inharmonicity of pianos, and so I had to take detailed data on piano sounds before and after tuning as well as go through the heavy amount of analyzing with the equipment in the lab so I can examine the waveforms and see how the inharmonicity of the piano strings affect the sound and tuning of a piano. My abstract was pretty short: “A typical piano creates sound through the process of vibrating strings. In this particular
        study, the strings were examined in an upright piano and a grand piano in order to see how string
        inharmonicity effects the string’s partials and the tuning of a piano.”

        As I was a physics major, it’s all physics that I did. So it didn’t involve people, which was a relief as that can be a bit of a nightmare. But it still took months for me to gather the data, to examine enough pianos, and to analyze it all before I could even begin writing the paper. And I had to examine all the literature on the topic, and include that in the introduction — a brief survey of the topic — while I did the experiment. I then had to present my findings in a presentation to the physics department. Fun but exhausting.

        So twenty pages isn’t too bad.


  2. So, I already knew I loved your blog and thought you were awesome and another blogging-kindered-spirit sort. But if I hadn’t, this would have done it.
    Can I read your thesis when you’re done? ’cause… this sounds awesome!


    1. Ha, thanks! You also are awesome. And yes, you can read it… I haven’t decided yet if I’ll post the whole thing for anti-plagiarism reasons. On previous papers I’ve just gone through and made them chattier and removed the citations/bibliography to help discourage plagiarism, so I may do that again. But I’ll be posting about being finished either way, so remind me to send it to you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 Thanks — and YAY! I have a feeling I’ll be going through academic-withdrawl this year (this is the first fall in 4 years that I haven’t been gearing up for school.. and while I know I have a chunk of years between college and grad school where I survived not having school for some reason this year feels different). I shall combat this by reading EVERYONE ELSE’s papers (and editing for friends… and likely starting some of my own research on unrelated academic topics because…. I can’t not?)



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