Thursday, April 24, 2008

Richardson in Death

Considering Clarissa's concern for her own death, I was intrigued by Samuel Richardson's fascination with his death and burial.  Though it appears his tombstone has been rubbed to the point of illegibility, these pictures indicate a simplicity of design.  The last picture is actually of a Massachusetts man, Samuel Richardson, whose headstone is more ornate.  It is merely offered in contrast.

Richardson in Polite Conversation

I thought you all might be interested in an article concerning Richardson in a book of Eighteenth Century "Table Talk."  

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's in a name?

I thought since I may have missed a posting in the past, I would make up for it with an extended post today. Here I'm hoping to perhaps flesh out some more possible ideas on names, identity, and psychoanalysis that I raised in the presentation today. 

Ian Watt, in particular, is useful in understanding more broadly the significance of naming in Clarissa. The Rise of the Novel's introduction is interesting in how it suggests that the novel presents a sharp break with literary history when it comes to names:

Characters in previous forms of literature were usually given proper names; but the kind of names actually used showed that the author was not trying to establish his characters as completely individualised entities...The early novelists, however, made an extremely significant break with tradition, and named their characters in such a ways as to suggest that they were to be regarded as particular individuals in the contemporary social environment. (25)

The second argument that I find compelling is the use of names as they relate to the titles of novels, and the argument on sexual inequality. From "The Naming of Characters in Defoe and Others": 

The use of a single, Christian name for women, but of a full name for men is part of a tacit discrimination between the sexes which is traditional in the novel, and which is reflected in the traditional novel-title. Against Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, Sir Charles Grandison, Tristram Shandy, Roderick Random, we can set Pamela, Clarissa, Amelia, Evelina, Emma. (333)

What I'm also interested in thinking about--in addition to the way that names say something about the novel itself--is also how the name points to a certain confusion of identity, and how that is linked to the epistolary form of the novel. Many critical scholars--particularly Terry Castle and Stephanie Fysh--suggest that the materiality and form of the novel intervenes in the "illusion of realism" that Richardson achieves. In other words, there versimilitude of reality seems to work on a closed-circuit, and the formal quirks of the novel (Paper X, the signatures that are not signatures), this reality is laid bare as illusion for the reader. This may be what Lacan would refer to as a m√©conaissance--a misrecognition of the self and of reality itself. Following this psychoanalytic strain, I would suggest as a secondary source, Slavoj Zizek's Enjoy Your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. In the first chapter he suggests why the recipient of a letter always recognizes himself as the addressee of a letter; in other words, the recipient uses to letter to "misrecognize himself", and the letter is essential in constituting individual identity. Unsurprisingly, the first chapter is titled: "Why does a letter always reach its destination?" and in it, he writes of the letter recipient: 

I don't recognize myself in it because I'm its addressee, I become its addressee the moment I recognize myself in it. This is the reason why a letter always reaches its addressee: because one becomes its addressee when one is reached. The Derridean reproach that a letter can also miss its addressee is beside the point: it makes sense only insofar as I presuppose that I can be its addressee before the letter reaches me--in other words, it presupposes the traditional teleological trajectory with a preordained goal. (12)

Whew. Well, hopefully I didn't get too far off course with this posting, and hopefully raised a few more ideas to consider when it comes to letters, names, addressees, reality, and identification. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mementos of death - storing locks of hair

Mementos of Death
Here is a link illustrating the various Memento objects Professor Davidson mentioned in class.
18th century memento rings, bracelets, brooches etc of the 18th C. Some hold hair, pictures or other items to remember loved ones. The imagery illustrated on the jewelry and some of the other objects is associated with death during the 18th century, especially that of the skeleton or bones. A good resource for pictures and to get an idea about what we discussed last class prior to the class on April 15th

Passages for class today

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The most poetical topic in the world

From Edgar Allen Poe, "Philosophy of Composition":
Now, never losing sight of the object-supremeness or perfection at all points, I asked myself-"Of all melancholy topics what, according to the universal understanding of mankind, is the most melancholy?" Death, was the obvious reply. "And when," I said, "is this most melancholy of topics most poetical?" From what I have already explained at some length the answer here also is obvious-"When it most closely allies itself to Beauty: the death then of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world, and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Passages and topics for today's discussion

REVISED 4/9/08: The evolving relationship between logos, ethos, pathos

During our last meeting, we talked about how Richardson uses Clarissa to think through the relationship between logos, ethos, and pathos. Richardson's attempts to negotiate the relationship between these three modes of persuasion (which have their roots in the rhetorical tradition) is part of a very long literary tradition that runs from Aristotle's Poetics/Rhetoric to Edward Young's Conjectures on Original Composition (which was actually addressed to Richardson) and beyond. In thinking over this tradition, I tried to sort out what theorists might have had the greatest impact on Richardson's understanding of ethos-logos-pathos. I took a class on recurrent themes in the history of literary criticism and chose a couple of the works that I thought would be most valuable to someone interested in exploring why Richardson may have chosen to work through logos-ethos-pathos the way that he does.

Longinus, On Sublimity
At a time when philosophers and rhetoricians were focused on the balanced relationship between logos-ethos-pathos established by Aristotle's Rhetoric, Longinus touted the predominance of pathos. Longinus was turned off by the hyper-stylized nature of oratory, and he believed that a truly great writer could achieve sublimity in his writing primarily through pathos, or the writer's rendering of great thoughts and strong emotions. Of course, the rendering of pathos required eloquent logos, but logos was a vehicle for pathos.
On Sublimity had a major comeback in the mid-18th century after it was translated from the Greek into English in the 1730s. It brought the notion of greatness into 18th-century intellectual thought, and the notion was taken up in Mark Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele's The Spectator (in the imagination essays), and Edward Young's Night Thoughts. Richardson was most definitely exposed to these works in one form or another, so it might be interesting to more closely examine his take on pathos/the sublime.

Cicero, De Oratore
Unlike Aristotle and his Greek predecessors, Cicero championed logos over ethos and pathos. His five pillars of rhetoric (invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery) were all concerned with the ways in which one orders one's speech to suit one's audience and achieve one's goal (his careful attention to language is not unlike Richardson's).
Cicero enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 16th century when Desiderius Erasmus (who enjoyed his own resurgence in popularity as a cultural symbol of the Enlightenment period) translated his works from the Greek into English. The English translations were immensely popular and had a great impact on late 17th, early 18th-century English culture. They were compulsory reading in English primary schools, and it is quite possible that Richardson got a healthy dosage of Ciceronian rhetorical values at a young age.

St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine
St. Augustine was the first theorist to suggest that the ethos of the writer, rather than the ethos of the characters within the work or the ethos of the audience (which was established by Aristotle in Poetics and Rhetoric), was crucial to the success of a work. The idea that a virtuous writer is a successful writer may have filtered down to Richardson, who most definitely examines the relationship between the ethos of the writer and the writer's command over logos throughout his novel. Interestingly enough, Erasmus also translated Augustinian works.

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism
Edward Young, Conjectures on Original Composition
These last two works are necessary to any understanding of 18th-century criticism, and while I can't remember any explicit conversations about logos-ethos-pathos, there are definitely great things in here that give a sense of the literary values of the age.

If I think of more works or if someone is interested in this topic, I'll be sure to post!

Some thoughts on criticism

There is a very large volume of excellent critical work on Clarissa, and these remarks are intended only as a preliminary guide to some things that touch upon issues we've discussed recently in class. You can use the bibliography I handed round at the beginning of class as a guide to some of what's out there; other starting points include keyword searches in JSTOR and Project Muse or indeed in CLIO. Indexes and notes or bibliographies in critical books can also be very useful--something that doesn't speak directly to the critical issues you're interested in may still be useful in terms of directing you to works that offer significant help.

Something we haven't talked about much involves the multiple editions of Richardson's fictions, and the effects and implications of his practice of revising following initial publication. We also haven't really considered what Richardson's correspondence reveals, either about his practice and intentions as a novelist or about his understanding of the nature of the familiar letter. Peter Sabor's and Tom Keymer's essays in the Approaches to Teaching Richardson volume offer useful starting points for considering these questions.

On Job and the form of the "meditation," Gabrielle Starr's discussion in Lyric Generations and Keymer's essay in the collection of essays edited by Sabor and Margaret Doody are also good starting points.

Keymer's Richardson's Clarissa and the Eighteenth-Century Reader is probably my single favorite critical book on Richardson, and is a mine of information and ideas about everything related to the novel!

Cynthia Wall's book on descriptive language, The Prose of Things, would be a good way into thinking about realism and literary technique. I have a chapter on Pamela-Shamela in my book about hypocrisy, and you could look there if you're interested in the ways that Richardson constructs arguments by allowing characters to give voice to positions that are then complicated or clarified by the way they are set into the narrative as a whole.

Leah Price published an essay on Richardson and offers more extended discussion in The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel of different practices of reading--skimming, skipping--as they are encouraged by the material forms of a novel's publication.

Joe Bray's introduction to the book on the epistolary novel is useful in terms of bibliography and laying out some important ideas about first- and third-person voice, consciousness and the novel; the critical literature on epistolarity is huge, so use common sense about how much to look at and what you really need for your essay! Terry Castle's book on Clarissa's ciphers is well worth a look if you are interested in questions concerning language and the production of identity.

I will give you in class today an essay by Siobhan Kilfeather that offers a summary of the state of Richardson criticism from the perspective of the late 1980s--it will give you a good sense of the earlier critical literature that's out there and which books might be of interest.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Clarissa the she justified?

When Clarissa writes the letter that sends Lovelace flying down to Berkshire to await her next post, we readers can hardly believe she would deceive him (L. 421.1, page 1233). Unfortunately for Lovelace, Clarissa remains in London, preparing to die and go to her Father in heaven rather than her Mr. Harlowe in England. This dissimulation seems uncharacteristic of Clarissa, even though we know she is loathe to put herself in this situation again.

I found an outside source particularly helpful when attempting to find out if Clarissa's letter could be justified or if Lovelace could rightly accuse her of lying-Perez Zagorin's Ways of Lying: Dissimulation, Persecution and Conformity in Early Modern Europe.

[Note: Above, I termed Clarissa's behavior as "dissimulation," but in Ways of Lying, Zagorin distinguishes between "dissimulation" and "simulation," saying "dissimulation is pretending not to be what one actually is, whereas simulation is pretending to be what one actually is not" (3). If we apply Zagorin's distinction to Clarissa's letter to Lovelace, we might say she simulates more than she dissimulates, for she implies she is going somewhere she is actually not, although her language is such that even that implication might be interpreted multiple ways.]

Lovelace's rage upon discovery of the letter's equivocation implies he does not allow any justification for Clarissa's simulation. Scholars, religious authorities, and moral philosophers of the time might differ, however.

Lovelace often refers to casuistry as an argumentative method for purposes of persuasion, but Zagorin offers clarification about the dual connotations of casuistry.
  • (1) As a science, "casuistry consists in application of the general rules of morality to concrete situations in which the particular circumstances involve conflicting duties and create doubt or confusion as to what is right or licit to do," but
  • (2) "casuistry has been widely regarded as a species of ingenious and plausible reasoning designed to circumvent some rule of moral conduct" (153-4).

Approaches to casuistry that Zagorin mentions are noted here as working definitions that can be transferred to L. 421.1 (1233) in Clarissa:
  • probabilism: "Probabilism...held that in a situation of doubt it was licit to follow a less or the least probable opinion" (161) "[probabilism] served as a higher-order principle within the realm of casuistry to license the acceptability of other opinions on all aspects of moral enabled people to act in any matter simply by following the opinion of an approved authority" (163)
  • mental reservation: "false statement completed by an unexpressed addition in the mind which made it true" (163)
  • equivocation: "use of words or expressions with a double meaning different for the speaker than for the hearer" (163)

If we transfer the definitions of these facets of casuistry to Richardson's Clarissa, it is clear that Lovelace employs the liberties afforded by probabilism and mental reservation (he always seems ready to marry Clarissa yet preconditions or adverse situations somehow prevent the ceremony), whereas Clarissa uses equivocation in L. 421.1. Both can be described as casuists, yet it is Lovelace who utilizes the tactics that contribute to casuistry's derogatory connotation.

Now, is she justified? Indeed, Clarissa's letter appears substantiated by both Catholic and Protestant perspectives on casuistry. The "exercises in casuistry" at a Catholic seminary reviewed the practice of equivocation and allowed that "the resulting deceit would rest not with the respondent but with the questioner[i.e. Lovelace], who by taking the answer in his own sense deceived himself" (Ways of Lying 187). As a further vindication of Clarissa's word choice, Zagorin actually references Ductor Dubitantium by Jeremy Taylor, whose Holy Living is one of the books Clarissa reads, for Taylor's allowance of lying in specific situations, namely when dealing with "children and madmen, or for the sake of charity and to save the life of a neighbor, friend, or public person" (249). [Could Lovelace not be considered a child? Is he exempt from the label "madman"? Does Clarissa not write this letter for her own charity, to save her own life?] It is as if Clarissa had perfectly comprehended and then exercised Taylor's guidelines regarding casuistry, for she even adheres to his stipulation that "a guilty person [is] obliged to admit the truth if interrogated justly" when she readily admits to Belford of the ambiguity in her letter and hopes that "I have not taken an inexcusable step" (Clarissa 1247).

*For further discussion: Views about the use of and even the legitimacy of casuistry cannot be categorized as Catholic or Protestant, since the interpretations of casuistry depend largely on the individual theologian or religious authority. Certain trends nonetheless exist, such as the affirmation of equivocation over mental reservation by several Protestants (i.e. Taylor) or the predominance of mental reservation in certain persecuted Catholic sects (i.e. the Jesuits). If we see the authorial persona in Clarissa as favoring Clarissa's equivocation over Lovelace's mental reservations, could that be a subtle attempt on Richardson's part to offer commentary of his own about his side in the Protestantism/Catholicism debate?*