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).”

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