Topic: Towards a New Imperial Order

Texts Examined: 

The Woman of Colour; The Asiatic Princess and/or The Female American

The Asiatic Princess constructs an interracial family in which Merje, a Native princess, is tutored by Lady Emma, an English lady. It appears to me like a prequel to The Woman of Colour, in which Olivia has finished her education and needs real-life experiences to resolve the issues brought by her mix-raced identity. The Female American, on the other hand, can be seen as a sequel to The Woman of Colour. Here the heroine becomes Robinson Crusoe, guides the natives on an island to Christianity, and maintains the island’s independence from the British.

Foundational Text: 

The Anglo-Indian Novel, 1774-1825: Ameliorative Imperialisms, by Samir M Soni.

http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/dissertations-theses/anglo-indian-novel-1774-1825-ameliorative/docview/1858820521/se-2?accountid=7107

Soni focuses on the idea of “ameliorative imperialism” to describes character in Anglo-Indian novels who seek amelioration rather than radical change in dealing with the colonial crises. He also discusses two related positions: “exploitative imperialists” who advocate maintaining existing colonial institutions (often with full knowledge of colonial atrocities) and “abolitionists” who advocate decolonization (though not necessarily the forced removal of British residents in India). Ameliorative imperialism is brought up under this context to advocate for the continuation of the empire while expressing sympathy for Indians. Soni’s paper helps me in understanding the heroines in The Woman of Colour and The Female American as they both aim to perpetuate colonial rule by becoming better masters than the British.

Supplemental Criticism:

The Exotic Woman in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction and Culture: A Reconsideration, by Piya Pal-Lapinski, University of New Hampshire Press

Piya Pal-Lapinski analyzes nineteenth-century British (and French and Italian) cultural production through the figure of the odalisque, a hybrid form that encompasses not just the Oriental/Asian stereotype of women but also the exoticized European woman. She argues that “the body of the odalisque … resists closure and implodes the imperatives of ethnography, threatening the coherence of ‘whiteness’ as a racial category.” (xvi) The odalisque is also “deeply linked to the tensions arising from the encounter between cultures of female libertinism and emerging bourgeois ideologies of domesticity throughout the nineteenth century.” (xvii) I wonder if the odalisque could be compared with Olivia (a mix-raced character and thus a biological hybrid of British/Non-British norms) and if Olivia — in an alternative ending — could become an odalisque. I am also looking for ways to better structure the odalisque in my discussion of feminist imperialism.

Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse, by Homi Bhabha

https://doi.org/10.2307/778467

Colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite; a move towards the same while moving back to remain the difference. It is important to understand that the construction of the Other allows the empire to exist. If the Subject and the Other are completely different, that might justify decolonization (who are we to rule over a people completely different from us?) If they are completely the same, then the brutal colonial rule becomes unjustifiable (you cannot rule someone in such a way if they are exactly like you.) Therefore, a slight difference has to be maintained between the Subject and the Other to enable domination. “Human and not wholly human.”

Models of Morality: The Bildungsroman and Social Reform in The Female American and The Woman of Colour, byVictoria Barnett-Woods

https://doi.org/10.1080/00497878.2016.1225400

Barnett-Woods discusses the Bildungsroman, a long-prose fiction genre developed out of the existing picaresque and adventure tales of previous literary generations. The protagonists of the Bildungsroman are traditionally male, but both The Female American and The Woman of Colour use the form to narrate the stories of colored women. Barnett-Woods’ major arguments are: first, the woman of color in the New World provides an alternative center of moral reformation in the British metropole; second, the Bildungsroman as an 18th-century literary form serves as a vessel for negotiating the transatlantic tensions of race, gender, and empire. I chose this article as it covers both Olivia and Unca and their development as new models of moral citizenry and femininity in a transatlantic Britain.

Homoerotic Female Friendships in 18th Century British Fiction

For my topic, I’m interested in looking at some of the really intense female friendships that we’ve come across in texts (most notably in Clarissa, but also potentially in Maria as well) and examining how they might be read as romantic and/or subtextually homoerotic, and perhaps even suggest that the truest relationships available to women in the 18th century were those with other women.

Foundational Text:

Todd, Janet. Women’s Friendship in Literature. Columbia Univ. Pr., 1980.

In this book (which unfortunately I wasn’t able to look at directly, though the UH library does have a copy of it, so I can get it through them the next time I’m on campus. In lieu of actually looking at the text, I read a number of reviews to get an idea of what was argued) Todd is essentially arguing against Virginia’s Woolf’s assertion that there are no female friendships exist in literature. Todd tracks female relationships in 18th century texts which are not defined by men. She sorts these friendships in five categories including ones like “sentimental friendship” and “erotic friendship.” She discusses Clarissa and Anna Howe’s relationship at length, casting their friendship in the first category. Much of her analysis deals with the ways in which the patriarchy is operating on these female characters and essentially undercutting their relationship. 

Secondary Texts:

Donoghue, Emma. Passions Between Women. Bello, 2014.

Emma Donoghue’s book will be an excellent help in this topic. She covers a lot of ground throughout the book, notably the ways in which the intense female friendships found in British literature of the 18th century can be read as homoerotic. She cites a lot of other critics in her work and part of her analysis seems wrapped up in the ways in which critics have historically side-stepped the issue of Lesbianism/Sapphism in these historical texts as an attempt to shield the authors, and indeed the characters, from criticism. She refers to Clarissa specifically in the chapter “A Sincere and Tender Passion,” taking issue with previous critical interpretations (from Jean Hagstrum in particular) which argue that while Anna Howe and Clarissa’s friendship could be seen as homoerotic it has noting to do with “consummated lesbianism” (217.) Of this Donoghue writes: “such godlike insight into hypothetical sexual practices of fictional female characters is not rare among critics who hate lesbians” (217). 

Woodward, Carolyn. “‘My Heart so Wrapt’: Lesbian Disruptions in Eighteenth-Century British Fiction.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 18, no. 4, 1993, pp. 838–865., https://doi.org/10.1086/494845.

Woodward spends a lot of time tracking what she terms “lesbian disruptions” in 18th century fiction—this is a fairly ambiguous term, but one that she defines as “gaps in narrative, genre mixing, and avoidance of closure” which are utilized by 18th century authors of fiction (intentionally or unintentionally) as a means to discuss (or not discuss as the case may be) female desire and especially same-sex female desire (842). She talks about the ways in which Clarissa and Anna Howe’s relationship is the most sustained and unproblematic depiction of love in Clarissa and how the novel reestablishes patriarchal expectations/standards by killing off/neutralizing the “lesbian subject” (858). 

Kittredge, Katharine. “Men-Women and Womanish Men: Androgyny in Richardson’s ‘Clarissa.’” Modern Language Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, 1994, p. 20., https://doi.org/10.2307/3195142.

In this essay Kitteredge tracks different forms of androgyny found throughout Clarissa. I’m particularly interested in her read of Anna Howe as “a kind of proto-male woman” (22). Although Kittredge never explicitly mentions lesbianism or the potential homoerotic readings of the the friendship between Anna and Clarissa, this read of Anna as inherently androgynous, or in some way denying her own role of woman seems incredibly relevant to other sources I’ve encountered like Randolph Trumbach, whose historical tracking of lesbianism in 18th century England goes hand-in-hand with the creation of what he terms a fourth gender (the third being the homosexual male). It seems like many discussions of 18th century lesbianism are bound up in these ideas of non-gender conforming women which I’ve seen referred to in many different ways throughout my research.

Annotated Bib: Adaptations of 18th c. texts, including Richardson’s Clarissa

Foundational Text: Marsden, Jean I.. The Re-Imagined Text : Shakespeare, Adaptation, and Eighteenth-Century Literary Theory, University Press of Kentucky, 1995. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://www.proquest.com/legacydocview/EBC/1915671?accountid=7107.

Marsden explores the notion of “radical adaptation” in the context of Shakespeare’s plays written between the mid 17th to 18th centuries, looking specifically at the characteristic features of (1) linguistic and moral simplification, (2) rewritten women, and (3) politicization of the story. (1) Marsden argues Restoration adaptors of Shakespeare’s texts did not consider the original language of his plays to be an essential part of his genius, and often times replaced his text with a “more refined and modern English,” ranging from updating his expressions and word choices to, at times, rewriting plays entirely. Playwrights and critics of the time did not believe the language of his work to be an intrinsic element of his genius. (2) the increase in female actresses after the 1660s and resulting societal changes instigated a number of theatrical and changes, including more breeching roles, a resurgence of pathetic drama as a means toward a less obvious form of titillation, the concept that women inhabited a starkly different world than their male counterparts, and a focus on the pathos of passive female virtue (often resulting in a flattening of their characterizations). This final point appears in its most extreme form in “the adapters’ fondness for scenes of attempted rape (39),” which “functions to establish moral distinctions…provid[ing] clear evidence of villainy, making the distinction between good and evil characters more obvious (40).” (3) With the Restoration providing a new political climate, Shakespeare’s adaptors discovered new opportunities in the treatment of his plays and plots, using the texts as a breeding grounds to develop and inform audiences of their views of their contemporary political climates. Marsden continues to explore these characteristics of the adaptations and reveals that despite the enthusiastic growth of these adapted texts, they quickly disappeared less than a century later, as the focus and importance on Shakespeare’s language grew more valued.

Hopkins, Lisa. “The Transference of ‘Clarissa’: Psychoanalysis and the Realm of the Feminine.” Critical Survey, vol. 6, no. 2, 1994, pp. 218–25, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41555823. Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.

Hopkins delves deeply into the transference of Clarissa from Richardson’s 1500 page novel to the 1991 BBC television adaptation, arguing that although there is much to be admired in adapting such a long text into three hours of television, without sacrificing any of the main plot points of the story, ultimately adapting the novel has flattened most of the characters’ psychologies, most drastically those of the women; the BBC adaptation portrays the main female characters (primarily Clarissa and Anna) as acting in manners over which they have no true psychological understandings over, and therefore, “trapped as perpetual victims of their own misunderstood and repressed desires (219).” Hopkins’ points of comparison between the texts include (1) the narrative perspective, about which she argues that the role of camera is akin to that of Belford—a safe and unaffected vantage point for the audience; (2) Clarissa’s rape, which is surrounded by much more suspense and horror in the novel for its opaqueness and the reader losing access to Clarissa’s POV at the critical moment, whereas in the television adaptation, the focus is wholeheartedly on Clarissa for the majority of the story, therefore rendering the rape scene not as powerful; (3) Clarissa’s dream—which, in the adaptation, seizes only the most obviously visual and sexualized elements from the description in the novel, and thus, seeing Clarissa’s subconscious desire as an excess of fear rather than of Lovelace’s actual malice; and (4) the displacement of the concern with motherhood transferred completely to Clarissa on the screen, therefore making her the most “fully psychologized character in the series, surrounded by monsters.”

Tumbleson, Raymond D. “Potboiler Emancipation and the Prison of Pure Art: ‘Clarissa, The Wind’, and Surviving Rape.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 25, no. 3, 1997, pp. 193–97, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43797806. Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.

Tumbleson analyzes 1928 film The Wind, in the greater context of the victimization and rape survival narrative that is first established in Richardson’s Clarissa, arguing that the film— which begins as a “reinscription” and ends as a “rewriting” of the Clarissa narrative— subverts the notion of a rape victim’s survival as “morally unjust” and instead, turns the film into a “cultural evolution ironically expressed in the grossest commercial terms, instead of a manual for survival (196).” Tumbleson posits that Richardson’s evolution from the writing of Pamela to Clarissa makes clear that he believes bodily pollution to be “irremediable, final, and fatal (194),” and reconcilable only thorough death. In contrast, The Wind shows the opposite progression. This film, much like Richardson, isolates Letty (the heroine) and much like Clarissa, she is “persecuted by those who should protect her (195)”; thus, at the climax, she is violated both physically by the wind and by Lovelace’s equivalent, Roddy, in an unconscious state, just like her 18th c. counterpart. However, the film drastically changes the narrative at this point—unlike Clarissa, who endures a slow and inevitable death after her rape, Letty survives as a “contented and sexually adult woman who has made her peace with society…revers[ing] the traditional gender roles of ruiner and ruined (195),” as Roddy is the one who eventually dies at Letty’s hands, while she continues to endure.

Stuber, Florian, and Margaret Anne Doody. “The Clarissa Project and Clarissa’s Reception.” Text, vol. 12, 1999, pp. 123–41, http://www.jstor.org/stable/30228029. Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.

In this article, Stuber and Doody describe to the reader The Clarissa Project, which encompasses a reissue of the third edition of Clarissa and reproduces a published conversation that Richardson had with his contemporary readers in three volumes: Volume I includes the prefaces, notes, and postscripts of different editions, Volume II is comprised of Letter and Passages Restored (1751), and Volume III presents Richardson’s last work, A Collection of the Moral ad Instructive Sentiments (1755) which contains more of the author’s commentary on Clarissa. In gathering materials for this project, the editors have searched and included a variety of materials, in the form of “literary essays, abridgements, rewritings, expostulations, defenses, parodies, verse tributes, comic verse allusions, drawings, paintings, operas and opera scenes, ballads, plays, dramatizations, allusions in other novels, and so on (126).” The variety in type and amount of material shows how difficult it is to categorize Clarissa as being a text for the “low” or “high” cultures exclusively; indeed, it seems that Clarissa operates at most every level of society and provides influence in a multitude of ways. The editors’ goals with this project includes exploring how Clarissa’s impact from century to century can reveal the “enormous cross-section of Western society and its modes of expression (128).”