Persuasion – Details of Time

The opening lines of Persuasion reflect several precise dates:

“‘Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester, by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785; Anne, born August 9, 1787; a still-born son, November 5, 1789; Mary, born November 20, 1791.’

Precisely such had the paragraph originally stood from the printer’s hands; but Sir Walter had improved it by adding, for the information of himself and his family, these words, after the date of Mary’s birth–‘Married, December 16, 1810, Charles, son and heir of Charles Musgrove, Esq. of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset,’ and by inserting most accurately the day of the month on which he had lost his wife.”

Northanger Abbey’s opening gives no hints as to the date when the story is set, while Mansfield Park opens with “about thirty years ago.” Thus, there seems to be a clear progression in Austen’s concern for the setting as she grows more detailed as her writing develops. I think an important question to ask here is whether or not explicit details (like the exact dates she provides in the passage above) is an improvement in her writing, or whether the middle-ground of Mansfield Park (a ball-park date) or the completely ambiguous Northanger Abbey is the most effective.

Personally, I think the ambiguity suits Northanger Abbey specifically because of its tendencies toward the Gothic, and Gothic novels tend to be set in the obscure past. But, as for her purely Romantic works, I prefer not knowing the exact details, yet the progression in her novels seems to show that Austen saw this exactness as an improvement. Why do you think that is? Do these exact dates somehow make the story feel more real, more rooted to the audience’s reality?

Persuasion: social mobility, mentorship

Persuasion, Ch. 1

“But now, another occupation and solicitude of mind was beginning to be added to these. Her father was growing distressed for money. She knew, that when he now took up the Baronetage, it was to drive the heavy bills of his tradespeople, and the unwelcome hints of Mr. Shepherd, his agent, from his thoughts. The Kellynch property was good, but not equal to Sir Walter’s apprehension of the state required in its possessor. While Lady Elliot lived, there had been method, moderation, and economy, which had just kept him within his income; but with her had died all such right-mindedness, and from that period he had been constantly exceeding it. It had not been possible for him to spend less; he had done nothing but what Sir Walter Elliot was imperiously called on to do; but blameless as he was, he was not only growing dreadfully in debt, but was hearing of it so often, that it became vain to attempt concealing it longer, even partially, from his daughter. He had given her some hints of it the last spring in town; he had gone so far even as to say, “Can we retrench? does it occur to you that there is any one article in which we can retrench?”—and Elizabeth, to do her justice, had, in the first ardour of female alarm, set seriously to think what could be done, and had finally proposed these two branches of economy: to cut off some unnecessary charities, and to refrain from new-furnishing the drawing-room; to which expedients she afterwards added the happy thought of their taking no present down to Anne as had been the usual yearly custom. But these measures, however good in themselves, were insufficient for the real extent of the evil, the whole of which Sir Walter found himself obliged to confess to her soon afterwards. Elizabeth had nothing to propose of deeper efficacy. She felt herself ill-used and unfortunate, as did her father; and they were neither of them able to devise any means of lessening their expenses without compromising their dignity, or relinquishing their comforts in a way not to be borne.

“There was only a small part of his estate that Sir Walter could dispose of; but had every acre been alienable, it would have made no difference. He had condescended to mortgage as far as he had the power, but he would never condescend to sell. No; he would never disgrace his name so far. The Kellynch estate should be transmitted whole and entire, as he had received it.”

Persuasion and Gender Equality

            I would like to think about Mary Wollstonecraft’s influence in Persuasion—in particular how notions of gender and equality are taken up by Jane Austen in a novel filled with both silly, insipid, and rational hardy women. In particular, it might be useful to give a gloss of how social class and gender rights are operating in Persuasion (1818)—and how we might think about the influence of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) in the scene between Captain Harville and Anne wherein they discuss the difference of emotions in gender:

“Ah!” cried Captain Harville, in a tone of strong feeling, “if I could but make you comprehend what a man suffers when he takes a last look at his wife and children, and watches the boat that he has sent them off in, as long as it is in sight, and then turns away and says, ‘God knows whether we ever meet again!’ And then, if I could convey to you the glow of his soul when he does see them again; when, coming back after a twelvemonth’s absence, perhaps, and obliged to put into another port, he calculates how soon it be possible to get them there, pretending to deceive himself, and saying, ‘They cannot be here till such a day,’ but all the while hoping for them twelve hours sooner, and seeing them arrive at last, as if Heaven had given them wings, by many hours sooner still! If I could explain to you all this, and all that a man can bear and do, and glories to do, for the sake of these treasures of his existence! I speak, you know, only of such men as have hearts!” pressing his own with emotion.

“Oh!” cried Anne eagerly, “I hope I do justice to all that is felt by you, and by those who resemble you. God forbid that I should undervalue the warm and faithful feelings of any of my fellow-creatures! I should deserve utter contempt if I dared to suppose that true attachment and constancy were known only by woman. No, I believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives. I believe you equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as–if I may be allowed the expression–so long as you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”

She could not immediately have uttered another sentence; her heart was too full, her breath too much oppressed.

“You are a good soul,” cried Captain Harville, putting his hand on her arm, quite affectionately. “There is no quarrelling with you. And when I think of Benwick, my tongue is tied.”

            This scene asks us to consider the quality of emotion and the difference in employment of emotion (and employment of life) between men and women during the Regency period. With women seen as having less strong of emotions than men, with Captain Harville using the plethora of literature that writes of the fickleness of women as his evidence. This evidence is quickly shot down however when Anne aptly notes that most literature is in fact written by men during this time period. A subtly powerful statement which speaks not just to the inequality of representation, but Austen’s own voice claiming that literature proves nothing when women were only scantly to be heard across the canon. This brings to my mind the power of what Wollstonecraft achieved in her publication of Vindications, as a woman entering the male-dominated sphere of philosophical enquiry and debate—she was quite singular in her use of this style of rhetoric in advocating for women’s equality in a vein familiar to male and female readers. Furthermore, Anne speaks to the strength of female attachment as having no time limit—no end as it does for Captain Harville in his time estimations (twelvemonth, twelve hours, etc). This is due to the fact that women lack the opportunity for true occupation which Captain Wentworth actually points out earlier in the novel—that he was able to overcome his affection for Anne and the pain at her refusal by going to sea and working in the navy. This difference calls to mind, again, Wollstonecraft’s insistence on the right for women to be equal to men—to be thought of a rational and to be allowed to be a partner in a marriage rather than a high idol or lowly slave. To have a purpose. In particular, when put alongside a well-known quote from Vindication, the parallel threads of dignity and equality offered to the female sex becomes a paramount issue:

“Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison. Men have various employments and pursuits which engage their attention and give a character to the opening mind; but women, confined to one, and having their thoughts constantly directed to the most insignificant part of themselves, seldom extend their views beyond the triumph of the hour.”

Scenework in Persuasion

The prevailing thought I had reading all of these Austen novels, and in particular Persuasion, is that they feel much more like modern novels than anything else we’ve read so far this semester. There’s an attention to realism which was all but absent in the Amatory fiction we looked at, not merely in terms of place and action which certainly feel better developed than (I’d argue) any other text we’ve read, but also in the psychological depths of these characters. 

Of course, we’ve seen a psychological interest in the inner minds of characters before, most notably in Clarissa, but something felt different about its portrayal here. In Clarissa, the psychological depth comes from the endless considerations of the characters, which are expressed more or less directly to the audience in the novel’s epistolary form. Persuasion operates on very different principles though: here, scene is the main vehicle through which this psychological depth is imparted to the audience. 

Austen’s interest in scene—not just the dialogue but the positioning of characters, the choreography of their movements, the things which go unsaid, and the resulting tension such things create—far exceeds that of any other writer we’ve looked at. Although this is present throughout all of three of the Austen we’ve read, I felt it most intensely in Persuasion, and, in my accounting, it reaches its zenith in the scene in chapter 23 where Captain Wentworth writes Anne the letter that reveals his feelings  (I won’t record the entire thing here because it’s quite long).

To me, this scene amounts to the climax of the novel—perhaps an interesting one, given that there’s no outward danger to anyone and although there is a revelation its one whose drama is considerably lacking when compared to that of, say, the one in Woman of Color, where we discover the existence of a secret first wife. Here, it’s the internal emotions of the characters  that push us to that intensity rather than any outward or external force. 

There’s also a layering here that’s absent from any other text we’ve looked at. The scene mostly consists of a conversation between Anne and Captain Harville about the nature of love, especially as it applies to men and women. This is a prime example of talking around a point rather than openly discussing it, as, without ever being told (at least to best of my memory) the audience understands that Anne is discussing her own feelings for Captain Wentworth. Austen has also carefully blocked out the scene—positioning Captain Wentworth close by, though the reader is unsure whether or not he can overhear, or if he does overhear, if he will understand it for what it is—a declaration of love. The intensity comes not from the literal conversation, but rather from this clever positioning of characters, the layering of said/unsaid, which all create a palpable tension in both the characters (as is revealed in Captain Wentworth’s frantic letter) as well as the audience itself. This was the first time this semester I could viscerally feel the tension in my body. I didn’t just want to see how the scene ended—I needed to. 

Though the scene work in Persuasion hasn’t quite reached what I would term “modern standards” yet—Austen defaults to narration/summary in places modern writers would never dream of, for example, the meeting in the park where Anne and Captain Wentworth discuss their feelings openly—but using it as the main thing through which we understand our characters is undoubtedly a modern technique.

Satire + Critic in Northanger Abbey

“But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me—I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.”

Chapter 6, p. 39, Penguin Edition

The gothic novels of the time of the Regency era are discussed here, in particular Ann Radcliffe’s infamously popular The Mysteries of Udolpho. Despite being a gothic genre, the characters and narrator discuss the text in a more sentimental and earnest manner that is meant to be parodic. The gothic genre is traditionally meant to express horror vs terror, yet these examples are all defined as horror. Ann Radcliffe defines the works mentioned as terror, so it is interesting that it is pointed out that Catherine is misunderstanding these works. The humorous tone implies the satire in which Austen indulges, especially through contrastive language/images (“Dear creature” and “Skeleton”). The scene generally serves to establish depth in the friendship as opposed to the relationship of Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Allen. And yet, it seems like Austen is making a point of clearly showing the inaccuracy of the conversation and how these girls are misunderstanding the works intended effects. This conversation on the darker genre juxtaposes the lighter romanticized aspects of visiting Bath and meeting the men and looking at hats and dresses, and serves to highlight the darker themes that surface later in the novel.

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).”

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).

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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.