In the first half of the eighteenth century, a new comic plot formula dramatizing the moral reform of a flawed protagonist emerged on the English stage. The comic reform plot was not merely a generic turn towards morality or sentimentality, Aparna Gollapudi argues, but an important social mechanism for controlling and challenging political and economic changes. Gollapudi looks at reform comedies by dramatists such as Colley Cibber, Susanna Centlivre, Richard Steele, Charles Johnson, and Benjamin Hoadly in relation to emergent trends in finance capitalism, imperial nationalism, political factionalism, domestic ideology, and middling class-consciousness. Within the context of the cultural anxieties engendered by these developments, Gollapudi suggests, the reform comedies must be seen not as clichéd and moralistic productions but as responses to vital ideological shifts and cultural transvaluations that impose a reassuring moral schema on everyday conduct. Thoroughly researched and elegantly written, Gollapudi's study shows that reform comedies covered a range of contemporary concerns from party politics to domestic harmony and are crucial for understanding eighteenth-century literature and culture.
'In her wide-ranging discussion of the symbiotic relationship between English culture and its staged representations in narratives of reform, Gollapudi offers important insights into the nuanced complexities of both reform and its representation in England between 1696 and 1711. The emphasis on detailed engagements with rare, lesser-known, and less-successful texts invites further thinking on the ways in which these same issues might also be in play to greater or perhaps different effect in a range of more canonical plays.' Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research '… Gollapudi makes a convincing case for her historical claims and, through a series of sophisticated and subtle readings, provides a model for critical interpretation that takes into account the visual, sartorial, and gestural cues that make plays not simply inanimate texts on the page but rather the template for historically embodied and socially engaged performances in the playhouse.' The Historian 'Gollapudi offers important insights for our understanding of both Restoration comedy and novelistic realism… Gollapudi’s study has resonance for research on novelistic representations of selfhood. Her work fits not only into a subcategory of literary history but also into the larger research area of the cultural history of emotions.' Eighteenth-Century Fiction ’Ms Gallapudi’s excellent study forges connections between an important dramatic genre and the larger social, sexual, and political changes of the age.’ The Scriblerian 'Gollapudi offers a convincing analysis of the development of the comic reform plot on the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century stage. Using a good mix of well-known and lesser-known plays, she demonstrates the strategies various playwrights employ to comment on and change cultural practices deemed no longer viable. Writing in a clear and cheerful style, her appreciation of a good comedy is never lost in the analysis. Her arguments are strongest