Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Clarissa's Closet....

**this is more in the vein of a "Grand Tour" sort of post...background rather than essential info...**

After reading the L. 53 (229), I was intrigued by Clarissa's description of her flight from her sister into her closet:
"whither I retired with my heart full, and pulled the sash-door after me; and could no longer hold in my tears.
Nor would I answer one word to her repeated aggravations and demands upon me to open my door (for the key was on the inside) nor so much as turn my head towards her, as she looked through the glass at me. At last, which vexed her to the heart, I drew the silk curtain that she should not see me, and down she went muttering all the way."

I didn't have a clear visual image as to what her closet looked like, so I searched and found this excerpt from a JSTOR article:

For Christina Gillis the letters of Clarissa are analogous to other spatial phenomena
such as architecture and stage design, for the rooms that relate and pair in
the eighteenth-century house she ingeniously links to the arrangement of the letters.
House-plans suggest Clarissa's meaning when they indicate the growing desire for
privacy in the eighteenth century, an insight that illuminates her division of the
Harlowe house into the 'up' of Clarissa's protected space and the dangerous 'down'
of the tyrannical family (this is far more helpful than all the loose talk about keys and
doors). Clarissa is continually being pushed back into small spaces: her closet, her
room inside the brothel, her prison, and finally ofcourse her coffin. But even here she
controls what may be known: if Bella follows her to her closet she pulls the sash door
after her; if Bella looks through the glass, 'at last, which vexed her to the heart, I
drew the silk curtain, that she should not see me'. The papers Clarissa writes there
turn mental event into public disclosure, and just as the most private room was
regarded as the most sacred, or the inner stage might frame an exemplary tableau, so
these constrained settings display, paradoxically, Clarissa's very public privacy.

Clarissa's story occurs in time. but the letters relate spatially to one another like

rooms in a house. We progress through letters which overlap, reach out expressively
or didactically to particular readers, and are broken open by collectors, arrangers,
editors, and readers inside and outside the text. Such 'openers' are vital, since
private letters must be made public before they can communicate a meaning.
Christina Gillis carefully teases out the writer-to-recipient-to-reader relation in this
strange epistolary world, seeking authenticity in a bewilderment of text.

It didn't really answer my question as to a visual but the relationship between architecture and privacy is interesting...and the work cited looks like it could be good further reading:

Reviewed Work(s):
The Paradox of Privacy: Epistolary Form in 'Clarissa' by Christina Marsden Gillis

And the URL for the article is below....

Stable URL:

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