Dalbey, Annotated Bibliography

Topic: Classical allusions in Richardson’s Clarissa.

Foundational Text

Doody, Margaret Anne. A Natural Passion: A Study of the Novels of Samuel Richardson. Clarendon Press, 1974. In her study of Richardson’s novels, Margaret Doody investigates Richardson’s conception of “love” as “a natural passion” fraught with social, political, and psychological implications. For Richardson, love is “a major irony” which cannot be escaped “except at the risk of making ourselves less human” (10-11). She explores the theme by tracing the sources of Richardson’s works in order to see what he has done with the material (13). Her analysis of Richardson’s sources, however, is contextualized by the fact that Richardson himself never had a formal education, which, Doody notes, reveals itself in the fact that “He never lost the defensive tone about his lack of knowledge of Latin and Greek, or even of French; in compensation, all his heroes are proficient in the classics, and his heroines in modern languages” (5-6). In her analysis of Clarissa, Richardson’s tone of defensiveness appears in the way he tempers a classical education with Christian piety. The libertines such as Belton and Lovelace, are well-versed in classical literature, but it is Clarissa’s piety–informed by Christian devotional literature of the 17th and 18th centuries–which elevates and completes her virtue. In this context, much of the classical literary references are used negatively, though there are moments when Christian piety and pagan philosophy converge, specifically in the character of Belford who, having begun the process of repenting of his libertine behavior,  functions as a mediator for the retelling of the death scenes of Belton, Clarissa, and Mrs. Sinclaire.

Supplemental Criticism

Harris, Jocelyn. “Richardson: Original or Learned Genius?” Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays, edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor, Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 188–202.

In this chapter of the Tercentenary Essays, Harris makes the case that Richardson was much more learned and familiar with a broad range of literature that spanned from the classical era to the eighteenth century. She notes that much of the contemporary criticism surrounding Richardson’s use of various literary, philosophical, and theological sources has echoed some of Richardson’s contemporaries that he wasn’t formally educated and therefore did not have as intimate a knowledge with many of the texts he cites. To the contrary, she notes many of the works Richardson printed–including a four volume edition of Virgil’s poetry, a translation of Josephus, and various contemporary dramas and poetry. Harris argues that “Richardson’s novels depend upon ancient and modern books, not only locally but structurally” (190). In rapid succession, Harris notes the frequency with which quotations from Ovid appear in Clarissa at crucial moments of characterization and plot points. Richardson’s allusions, she argues, “are rarely casual, but call up entire works to explain and express his meaning” (202). Although Harris’ argument seems to confirm the growing consensus of scholarship regarding Richardson’s learning since Doody’s monograph, her attention to the structural significance of classical literary allusions in Clarissa help lay the groundwork for additional investigation.

Price, Fiona. “‘Inconsistent Rhapsodies’: Samuel Richardson and the Politics of Romance.” A Companion to Romance: From Classical to Contemporary, edited by Corrine Saunders, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2004, pp. 269–86.

Price considers Richardson’s fiction within the context of the Romance genre and its political implications. She notes that during the 18th century, “attacks on the epistemology of romance” had become commonplace (269). Yet, Price observes that despite romance’s low status and specifically female readership, it exercised “great influence on the novel” by way of a complicated genealogy. Richardson, she argues, attempts to exploit the genre of romance while continuing to draw on “its idealism  to interrogate authority” (270). In Clarissa, Richardson accomplishes this redress of romantic idealism in the way he contrasts it with classical learning. When a classical education is “untempered by genuine Christianity” (278), it produces equally vicious characters. Although Price’s argument does not investigate the degree to which Richardson was familiar with the classical texts he cites and quotes throughout Clarissa, it fits within both Doody’s and Harris’ observations regarding Richardson’s views and familiarity with classical literature.

Rivers, Isabel. Classical and Christian Ideas in English Renaissance Poetry. 2nd edition, Routledge, 1994, https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203359952.

Rivers has written a guidebook for understanding how Renaissance poets and authors understood and utilized classical and Christian literature in their own literary works. The book is geared specifically to students who are new to the field of Renaissance literature studies and who have little or no familiarity with Latin, Greek, or the Bible. In her introduction, she highlights the fact that the “educated English poet of the period 1580 to 1670” was two things: A) a Christian, and B) a classical scholar (1). For most Renaissance poets—as well as writers extending into the eighteenth century–the classical pagan epics were read in the light of Christian teaching. When blended together, they provided a “range of sometimes complimentary, sometimes contradictory assumptions about and explanations of the physical universe, man’s relationship to God, his moral stature, and the purpose of his earthly activities” (2). Rivers’ chapter on Platonism and Neo-platonism will be especially useful in considering the platonic affinities between Clarissa’s and Socrates’s deathbed scenes, and the way in which Christian devotional literature complimented and diverged from Socrates’ discussion about how one should prepare for death and what the philosopher can expect in the afterlife.


Nelson–Annotated Bibliography

TITLE: Masked Presence: Gender and Genre in 18th-Century Amatory Fiction and Comedy [subject to change]

TEXTS EXAMINED: Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina (1725) + Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem (1780)

Working Abstract: This paper will examine the use of role-play and costume in subverting gender and genre in two women-authored eighteenth-century texts: Eliza Haywood’s “novella” Fantomina (1725) and Hannah Cowley’s comedy of manners production, The Belle’s Stratagem (1780).

Keywords: gender, performance, genre, drama, novel, fiction, identity, sexuality, marriage plot

New Sources:

  • Kathryn S. Hansen, “Dress as Deceptive Visual Rhetoric in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina,” ABO, vol. 11 iss. 2 (Fall 2021): 1–18. 
  • Irene Soriano Florez, “Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina: Performing Femininity through the Masquerade” JACLR, vol. 5, iss. 2 (December 2017): 64–76.

Key Sources:

  • Ros Ballaster, Seductive Forms: Women’s Amatory Fiction from 1684 to 1740 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998).
  • Catherine Craft-Fairchild, Masquerade and Gender: Disguise and Female Identity in Eighteenth-Century Fictions by Women (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1993).


New Sources:

  • Kathryn S. Hansen, “Dress as Deceptive Visual Rhetoric in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina,” ABO, vol. 11 iss. 2 (Fall 2021): 1–18. This article usefully explores the twin themes I hope to address in my final paper, that of forms of feminine identity and sexuality as expressed through genre and dress. Hansen locates the power of female expression in eighteenth-century society as intersecting at both the social norms for dress, and the rise of the novel–both of which offered middle to high class British women the opportunity to subvert hegemonic and heteronormative practices. Hansen lands on Haywood’s Fantomina as exemplary of the power of fiction writers to “capitalize upon dress’s potential as an agent of deception, using clothing as a means through which characters control their identity” (1). Hansen touches specifically upon the art of deception in both clothing and writing as practice and form of inherently deceptive modes of maneuver through a sexist society that perpetuates women’s “deceit” as inherent–thus, Haywood’s “novella” works at the level of satire and comedy through punning on genre and gender.
  • Irene Soriano Florez, “Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina: Performing Femininity through the Masquerade” JACLR, vol. 5, iss. 2 (December 2017): 64–76. This article, like Hansen’s, also values the role of costume and dressing up in Haywood’s Fantomina, but explicitly focuses on the “comedic” and “carnivalesque” qualities of Fantomina’s strategy to “masquerade her identity” through self-display as temporally “cheerful.” This article will be an important link to my comparison of Fantomina with Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem, which utilizes a masquerade ball scene in its conclusion in order to allow its main heroine Letitia Hardy to trick and capture her love interest Doricourt. The power of performance (both on the level of a theater performance–speaking to genre here; as well as “performativity” speaking to gender roles and costumed identities) allows for female characters in both texts to rewrite the male gaze and subvert marriage plots (either in their favor, or entirely). 

Key Sources:

  • Ros Ballaster, Seductive Forms: Women’s Amatory Fiction from 1684 to 1740 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998). Ballaster is of course an invaluable source for a paper like this. Not only is this text surely a key text in the study of women’s writing and theater, but also her newly published Fictions of Presence (2020) which will also surely become a “key text” in the field. Specifically, Seductive Forms will provide a history to consider genre and gender alongside one another in eighteenth-century studies, providing a kind of history of the “rise of the woman novelist” (22). Ballaster’s chapter on “Cross-dressing and Cabals: Allegories of Female Writing,” and “Preparatives to Love: Fiction as Seduction in Eliza Haywood’s Amatory Prose,” will both usefully illuminate the intersections of developing genre and form during this period and its implications at a meta-level within the works of 18th-century British women writers. 
  • Catherine Craft-Fairchild, Masquerade and Gender: Disguise and Female Identity in Eighteenth-Century Fictions by Women (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1993). Craft-Fairchild’s text is still relevant for asking readers to re-examine the true subversive qualities of Masquerade in eighteenth-century women’s writing. Through a close study of a selection of texts, Fantomina included, Craft-Fairchild presents a case for masquerade fictions as both subverting and upholding dominant patriarchal values. The very necessity of masquerade suggests that these women writers must draw characters who ultimately submit to the dominant economy of male desire, an argument which could be made against Letitia who changes herself into a “worldly” woman in order to seduce Doricourt into the typical marriage plot. Craft-Fairchild takes the masculine-dominated masquerade of femininity to be an all but omnipresent and intransigent textual condition that typically “appears in women’s writing as a disempowering capitulation to patriarchal structures that posit female subordination” (p. 172). She thus finally sees “the darker side of masquerade” (p. 25) as an all-encompassing framework for interpreting the psychology of gender and sexual relations.