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Studies of Richardson's Clarissa
The 1991 BBC Clarissa opens and closes on Harlowe House"
This part of my website is intended to make available to anyone interested the various materials I (and sometimes others with me) have written about the mid-18th century masterpiece epistolary novel, Clarissa, by Samuel Richardson, and a 1991 mini-series adaptation of Clarissa by Robert Bierman, David Nokes, Janet Barron (to mention just the director and screenplay writers).
To put the most recent work first, here is a paper on rape in Clarissa, and its proposal; a film study of the 1991 BBC Clarissa, and its accompanying transcription of three scenes between Lovelace (Sean Bean) and Clarissa (Saskia Wickham), which I could not include in the paper and dramatize core clashes of values between them; a detailed comparison of the film's parts and scenes with Richardson's novel; a list of letters in the film (which formed the evidence for my argument that the film makes continual use of filmic epistolarity); and my first proposal.
I follow this with an updated bibliography intended for practical use for college students, people beginning a serious reading of Richardson, and the common reader.
- Select Biblography of recent Richardson and relevant film studies
- Bibliography and selected essays on epistolarity in general and the novels of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope
- On Anna Barbauld's view of Richardson's Clarissa: we may consider her the earliest influential and important (intelligent) critic of the novel
An explanation: this may serve as a preface to the he postings the group of people on Clary-l wrote over the course of 1995. Some of these take the form of essays, others are debates, and still others comments and responses to the text; they constitute a conversation on the novel at that time. The dates are the dates in the novel.
In 1979, I was granted a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York after finishing a long dissertation, one third of which was a study of Richardon's second and third epistolary novels, Clarissa, and Sir Charles Grandison. I called it Richardson, Romance, and Reverie: A Dissertation. It's a study of the psychological bases of romance as genre particularly appealing to women as readers and writers; of the close connections between romance and the creative state behind novel-writing called reverie; and of epistolary narrative as a dramatic and pictorial technique which naturally emerges when this genre and imaginative state combine.
I got onto the Net around 1994 and subscribed to an academic 18th century listserv community, then and now known as C18-l. During the next year, 1995, a group of us then on C18-l also organized ourselves into a smaller listserv community called Clary-l. Its purpose was to read Richardson's Clarissa in "real time", that is, we read the letters on the dates the characters in the novel are said to have written them, commenting on the letters in real time as we went.
I first became interested in studying film adaptations of high
status novels in 1998 when I was asked to
review a collection of film studies on the mid-1990s film
adaptations of Jane Austen's novels. My interest grew as I found
myself asked again to review a book of films studies of adaptations of
19th century novels by women (see "Taking
Sides"), and myself began to read many film studies (theoretical
and practical) and study the Jane Austen
films and film adaptations of Anthony Trollope's novels on my own.
It was inevitable that I should turn to study the landmark film of the
early 1990s, the 1991 BBC/WBGH Clarissa. I wrote a paper on
the film for an 18th century conference in held in Richmond, 2009, which had three panels on 18th century films. While doing that I found myself reading and catching up on much scholarship over the last 20 years.
After the rape, Lovelace says he's "truly, truly sorry" and asks her to "believe" he "loves" her. She replies "Again? As I believed Captain Tomlinson? and Lady Betty? How you all must have laughed. Such a witty masquerade." Readers hold
her anger against her
On Epistolary Narrative
A Prospectus of What's To Come
Who Do We Sympathize With and More on Editions
Bibliography of Illustrations of Richardson's Novels.
The Importance of Reading the Third Edition whenever feasible
On Brothers In Lieu of Fathers Trading the Women
Not Like a Real Letter
The Novel Set in a Leapyear & Clary's Voice
The Year 1732
Letters become more genuine and are written as a dialogue
How Ugly and Harsh
The Deepening Struggle Between the Mother and Daughter
Clary and her Mother
The Novel Set in a Leapyear & Letters As Working Units
To what extent is Mrs Harlowe controlled by a supposed conventional ideology?
Mrs Charlotte Harlowe and Stella Kowalski
What is Mrs Charlotte Harlowe so scared of? What is she threatened with?
The Puzzle of Clarissa's Loyalty to Her Family
Why Not Litigate?
Uncle Tony: A Mind like a Sewer
A Magnificent Entrance, a Virtuoso Letter
'Psychological Dream-like Subjectivity:' A Characteristic of Letter-Novels & Romance
A Chilling Dislike for Kind, Gentle, and Moral People
A Last Meditation Upon the Encounter
A Preparatory Interlude and then the First Encounter
The Assault Begins Again, and this time it's Clary versus her sister
In Defense of Anna
The Brother as the Brutal Male Not An Obsolete Role At All
The Emblematic Traditions
Clary sets an 'Ode to Wisdom' to Music: A Gothic Dream-Tracery
On Solmes as a Substitute Way of Raping Clarissa
Genuine Epistolarity Demands We Read in Psychological Not Calendar Time
The Lady and the Maid
More on the Parallel between Solmes and Lovelace
A Calm Before the Final Storm which sweeps Clarissa away
The Suspected Seduction of 'pretty Betsy, aka Rosebud'
Family Violence in Clarissa and other novels
One Last Determined Assault
'The Wonderful Variety of Sounds:' Interlace in Clarissa
Clarissa's family's malices and her curious contradictory responses to Lovelace
The Crisis of Clarissa's Fate: The Irretrievable 'Escape'
Punctilio, Love, and Brothers
Lovelace as a Literary Concoction: 'The Affair of Miss Betterton'
In the Throes of Genuine Epistolarity: Quietude in Calendar vs Psychological Time
On Lovelace as a Literary Concoction Rather than Believable Character
On Role Playing and Refusing to Marry: Just Prior to London
Lovelace's and Everyone's Nonchalant Cruelty, Children and Adults
The Yearned-For Reconciliation
Anna's Norris: One Thread in a Tapestry of Allusions to retirement poetry
Clary's Response to the Men as opposed to the Women in the Brothel
Miss Partington: Does Clarissa shy away from all physical contact?
That Old Sado-Masochistic Strain
The Quarrelsome Lovers
Clarissa as a psychological novel
The Sticking Point: Fear of the Sexual Encounter
Richardson's Anti-Feminism: The Portrait of Thomasine
The Convincing Note of an Imagined Male Presence
Romance, Married Names, and the Dread of the Liminal Wedding Night
Thursday morning: Heavy petting mutual, Clarissa responds
Clary's Mind Slips Back and Forth over the Edge
The Emotional Temperature of Clarissa
How the Mind Slips Away Under the Impetus of Unrelieved Pressure
Rape in Clarissa and Middleton's Women Beware Women
The Rape: The Effects of Epistolary Rearrangement
A Symphony and New Phase
The Most Distasteful Aspect of the Rape That Clarissa was Drugged and Held Down
Rape As Attack
The Limits of Lovelace's Brutality, Yet a Sponging-house, Bedlam, the Grave Preferable
Is the Rape actionable?
The Lady and the Penknife
'ONCE more have I escaped--'
Epistolarity: Thematic and Psychological Juxtaposition of letters using Calendared Time
The Aftermath of Rape
Going Public as Raped: Clary Ahead of Our Time
The Unspeakable: Raped Before Others After a Public Supplication
Lady Sarah Sadleir: another thoroughly believable character thrown off
'The Blow is given--'
Are Some Acts Irretrievable?
The Sponging-House: What's Wrong with This Deeply Moving Scene vs. Election/Damnation
Clarissa Swept Away In Today's Heat?
Her Longing for Death, for Escape, for Nature or God to Take Her
Epistolary Narrative: Strengths and Weaknesses
Anna's No and the Conservative Imagination
Anna's Spirited Letter
Clarissa Regaining Strength Among Friends, Belford's Voice & More on Epistolary Technique
Marking Time: Lovelace a Truer Aeneas, but Clarissa no Dido
'She may be with child!': Pregnancy A Sign of Orgasm
Is she pregnant? Is she taking up with Belford? Clary a thing something must be done about
Belford Becomes Clary's Truest Friend & Her Possible Pregnancy
The Influence of Richardson: On Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, Edith Wharton
'by these extracts, thou hast I doubt made her bar up the door of her heart'
To Prosecute or Not to Prosecute?
Psychological Depths & Complexity: Absolute for Death--and Terror
A Note of Urgency struck twice
Colonel Morden Not Much Different from Lovelace in His Views
And So We are Come to Clarissa's Dying, or, Has it Been Suicide?
The Corpse Is Brought Home
The Incompatibility of Pleasure with Tragedy, Realism, & Christian Didacticism
Appropriate final still, Clarissa's gravestone, from the BBC 1991 film adaptation, Clarissa
Nothing Clarissa Holds Dear is Really Valued by Anyone Else, Not Even Belford
Anna's Strength and Integrity Fills the Vaccuum After Clary's Death
Scenes of Sympathetic Affection: Richardson at His Best and Worst
Is Lovelace Damned for All Eternity?
Death or Morden's Cold Rage Set in Context of Life's Ongoingness and Serendipity
Conclusion and Postscript
A Parody of Clarissa
As for my dissertation, nowadays this is available from University
Microfilms International. It is too long for me to put on the Net. I
have however written many essays and commentaries on books and film in
the form of postings about some of the themes and issues I dealt with
in my dissertation. Beyond the above writing on Clarissa,
film and book, I've written romance in women's writing Gothic and l'ecriture femme, and on epistolarity in the novels of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope and real women's lives in the Renaissance. Bibliographies are included. The one area I've neglected is my theory that reverie is that special pictorial state out of which novels are created: that the interested reader can find in the chapter on Trollope's Autobiography in my published book, Trollope on the 'Net.
During his duel with Belford (Sean Pertwee) Lovelace ((Sean Bean)shouts: "No. Don't play the moralist with me. A rake's a rake, Jack. We're two of a kind you and I."
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Page Last Updated 4 April 2009