The seventeenth- and eighteenth-century progress pieces
Crider, John Richard
Doctor of Philosophy
The progress piece takes its name from the metaphor which organizes it. The progress was a journey; and we are particularly familiar with the term in connection with the journey of royalty. Elizabeth I was famous for her progresses through England, and it was during her reign that the word "progress" seems first to have appeared in literary titles. Although the progress piece can be defined, most generally, as a literary work organized in terms of the progress metaphor, inspection of the list of progress pieces reveals that this metaphor served to organize quite different literary works. Thus, in order to attain a clear idea of the progress piece, it is necessary to group its instances into several classes. There are many principles on which classification can be based, but I have relied on three ideas which have been long recognized as useful in literary analysis: the object, the manner, and the effect of the work. Thus the progress pieces may be divided into two large classes, as the literary object is a biographical or a historical sequence, a life career of a man or a historical career of an idea. Within these classes further distinctions are useful. The biographical pieces fall into three groups according to their manner: There are pieces which present the career of man through allegory; other pieces use a predominantly expository method; and others are mimetic, imitating life-sequences somewhat in the manner of prose fiction. Further distinctions are sometimes helpful within these latter classifications. On the basis of object, the allegorical pieces may be divided into general and topical allegories; while on the basis of effect, the mimetic pieces tend into two groups, ironic-satiric and sentimental-didactic pieces. There is a good deal of similarity among the historical progress pieces and consequently less need of classification, but it is helpful to divide them into a few groups on the basis of the nature and scope of their objects. The ideas of manner and effect are useful in connection with the historical progress pieces not as means of classification but as points of view by which to clarify their formal character and historical significance. Though the intrinsic value of most of the progress pieces is slight, the mere occurrence of some one-hundred-eighty works, and probably more, of one general type, and concentrated primarily in one period, the eighteenth century, is a fact that provokes investigation.