Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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.

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