Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Fielding offers a devastating critique of Richardsonian moralizing in Shamela--but what does he offer in the way of a positive vision of what fiction can do and why we should read it? Underneath all the mockery and ribaldry, does Fielding offer some alternative sincere moral framework to Pamela?
As always, cite some text to support your claims. Deadline: Tuesday (10/3), start of class. Responses count for Week 6 or Week 7, depending which side of Saturday midnight you respond.
|Picart, Shofar Sounded in a Portuguese Synagogue, 1728.|
What have you learned about the C18 that you didn't know before?
What common threads do you find among everything we've read thus far?
What questions do you have as we prepare to go forward?
Deadline: Tuesday (10/3); posts before Saturday midnight count towards Week 6; posts afterwards count towards Week 7.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Deadline: Tuesday (9/27), start of class. What week it counts for depends on whether you post before or after midnight on Saturday.
Your answers identified a lot of different ways of understanding these rules!
These rules show a halt in Pamela asserting her worth, but her comments...show that she has grown in her self-worth (Rule 20 and 22)
Beng married in this time came with so many intricacies and implications: maybe it was in fact the mature thing to be complacent, however twisted that may be.
Her action of writing her husband's lecture down not only shows her sincere effort to understand and serve her husband...but also helps her to identify what she disagrees with or finds challenging to comprehend.
All of the rules...have to do with her relationships to others....what this book shows as "moral" or "growth" isn't her personal growth, but her societal growth in her position as a wife and mother.
They halt her growth...[rules 2 and 37]...She simply accepts him as the better person worthy of more consideration.It's worth noting that Pamela does not accept these rules uncritically! She includes her commentary as she evaluates them carefully. Among the things she's looking for as she reads: evidence that Squire B is holding himself to a similar standard of thoughtfulness and respect (and she finds it). Also note the rules on how they will raise a child. Squire B is aware of his faults and excesses and does NOT want to raise a Squire B, Junior, who will misbehave in the same way (and he believes that Pamela's habits of self-discipline and virtue will help to mold the child in a different image than his own.
So what about Sally Godfrey? What is she doing in this story? Does Pamela's reaction to Squire B's sordid past confirm the interpretation of those who view Pamela as a willing participant in her own oppression? Or does it convey the kind of independence and mutuality that I argue can be found in the "Rules"?
Deadline: Start of class Tuesday (9/27); posts before Saturday midnight count towards Week 5; after that, they're Week 6.
|Pamela Writing (Joseph Highmore, 1745, Wikigallery)|
We won't have class on Thursday (l'shanah tovah!), but those of you not celebrating the holiday can use the time to get a head start on the Rare Book Library assignment, which I'll be posting shortly.
Just a reminder: as with Fantomina, I will not be permitting you to read the text from an electronic doo-dad in class, so please make a print-out of Shamela and bring it with you. It runs about 30 pages, so you'll need to budget your toner/paper accordingly. Depending on what you pay for ink cartridges, you might find it more cost-effective to print it out on a library printer. Also, as with Robinson Crusoe, take a moment before you start the novel to glance over the glossary that the C21 editor (Jack Lynch) has supplied at the back of the text.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
In his article “Pamela: Autonomy, Subordination, and the ‘State of Childhood’”, Raymond F. Hilliard explores the ways in which Samuel Richardson’s Pamela can be delineated into two separate statements about the nature of subordinate relationships in the eighteenth century. The first half of the novel, Hilliard argues, is marked by Pamela’s adolescent journey toward adulthood and the self-reliance and autonomy associated with it. In this half, Pamela still operates under the assumption that she is in a subordinate position to God, to her parents, to Squire B, to essentially any character of age or authority. She displays a type of childish ignorance that, Hilliard argues, works to her ultimate detriment. “…She is reluctant, for instance, to admit that Mrs. Jervis is complying with B’s plan to delay Pamela’s departure from Bedfordshire, and unable to realize that several of B’s other servants are not the single-minded well-wishers she likes to consider them” (204). However, Hilliard notes that this subordinate mentality slowly begins to melt away as the first half progresses, as Richardson attempts to separate Pamela from “all to whom she would look for ‘Direction’ or ‘Deliverance’” (204). In doing so, Richardson induces Pamela’s introspection and ultimate move toward autonomy and self-assurance.
This transitory coming-of-age reaches a breaking point in what Hilliard describes as the “emotional center” of the novel, where Pamela asserts her autonomy and singularly makes the decision to return to B and yield to his marriage proposal (217). In this moment, Hilliard contends that the characters reach a “temporary equality, a balance of power”, a break from “the great law of subordination” that so often dominates eighteenth century literature (202). He postulates that this is the moment in which Pamela reaches true adulthood and relinquishes the ignorance of childhood that distinguished her character in the previous half of the novel. The gradual isolation of Pamela from her figures of guidance reaches a threshold when she consciously chooses to give in to B. Hilliard notes that we may view this as Pamela’s “ascendancy over her master, for she has established a portrait of herself that totally seduces him” (209). This moment is fleeting, however, as Hilliard moves to classify the version of subordination and hierarchical relations we see in the second half.
As Pamela and B enter into the realm of marriage and domesticity, Hilliard argues that Pamela experiences a regression in terms of her autonomy. Instead of fully assimilating her newfound self-assurance, she reverts to a submissive, obedient version of herself characterized by the presumptive code of husband and wife. The “law of subordination” is again placed upon the characters and Pamela is relocated to what Hilliard describes as “childhood”. He borrows from an earlier Mary Wollstonecraft suggestion about the psychological nature of subordination. She argues that eighteenth century marriage was dominated by these hierarchical relationships in which a wife, whose principal concern was to dutifully please a husband, lapses into a childlike state of obedience (210-11). This parent-child relationship is abundant in the latter half of Pamela, Hilliard argues, as demonstrated through the interaction of B, Pamela, Lady Davers, and various servants.
Reading Hilliard’s article, I found myself intrigued by his claims, but ultimately in disagreement with them. Although I think that we can view Pamela’s marriage to B as an ultimate triumph and a testament to her autonomy, I do not see that particular episode as a breaking point in that agency she comes to possess. While she does enter into the sphere of domesticity and the patriarchal code that presumably follows, I did not see this as an end to her maturity and definitely not as a regression toward a character that was any worse than she was in the first volume. While she may not assert her dominance in a way that supposes any great change, there are still instances where Pamela is arguably autonomous and, in my opinion, certainly not reflective of a parent-child relationship. Even so, a certain level of subordination was normative in this time, so to describe Pamela’s and B’s relationship as peculiar or alarming does not seem valid. As modern readers, of course we would want to see a fully developed, independent heroine, but as far as the time period goes, I think Pamela does a great deal, even in the second half, to demonstrate that she is not fully subservient.
That being said, what do you make of this argument? Is there a parent-child hierarchy at play between Squire B and Pamela? Is Pamela an ultimately dynamic character or do we see this reversion to “childhood” that Hilliard describes?
Hillard, Raymond F. "Pamela: Autonomy, Subordination, and the 'State of Childhood'." Studies in Philology 83.2 (1986): 201. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 19 Sept. 2011.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
About the reading for next week: as I explained in class on Thursday, I haven't assigned specific page ranges in Volume II of Pamela. You should of course read the entirety of Volume II, but it can make that chunk of text more digestible if you think of it in terms of the finding answers to the following two questions:
1. At what point do you become convinced that the climax of the novel is, in fact, the climax? How do you know? What convinces you?
2. According to our 21st century assumptions, the narrative achieves closure at the point where the main narrative conflict (will Pamela give in to Squire B?) gets resolved. Yet there's still a lot of Pamela left after that point. Why? What does the remaining text contribute to the narrative? How does it overturn your assumptions about how the novel achieves closure?
Don't respond to this post with your answers to those questions! Just think about them as you finish the novel and prepare to discuss it on Tuesday and Thursday.
DO respond to this post with questions about the writing assignment!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Deadline: Saturday (9/17) midnight.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
In her article, “Pamela’s Work,” Laura J. Rosenthal explores the deeper “significance of… [Pamela’s] ‘return’ to manual labor,” and the underlying implication that the labor in question is actually “sex work” or prostitution (245, 249). According to Rosenthal, the obvious conflict between corruption and virtue that saturates the novel exists within the structure of a more traditional class conflict, however, she argues, there is also a more subtle conflict present: namely that of manual labor vs. prostitution for working class women. Rosenthal bases her argument on the multiple implications of the clothing bundle selection Pamela makes early on in the novel. The first bundle, consisting of fine clothing given to her by her late mistress, represents both the end of friendship and propriety with Lady B, and the loss of a possibility, albeit slim, of a genteel life. The second, referred to as the “wicked” bundle, represents the sexual and moral compromise being proffered by Master B and the possibility of employment as his kept mistress (245). The third bundle, then, consists of working-class clothes appropriate for a woman of manual labor, which is what would await her were she to choose virtuous innocence and return home to her family. Despite their appeal, Pamela refuses both the first and second bundles, choosing instead, at least verbally, the third bundle, thus choosing virtue over luxury or pleasure.
However, even though Pamela seems to choose the moral highroad here, by choosing labor over luxury, Rosenthal claims that the virtuous significance of these clothes “quickly becomes subsumed by their erotic allure” (247). Both when Pamela sees herself in these clothes, and also when B later sees her in the simplistic working-class frock, she is said to be just as beautiful and sexy, if not more so, than she is in finer clothing. Interestingly, Samuel Richardson seems to shy away from ever testing Pamela’s resolve to return to manual labor. While it is true that her virtue is tested time and time again, her commitment to abandoning her position and running from temptation is continuously delayed either by her desire to finish her work, rerouted coach rides, or the marriage proposal she recieves shortly after arriving back home. From this, Rosenthal draws the conclusion that Richardson uses clothing as a commentary not only on class and social status, but also as a way to imply that Pamela, whose hands are too soft for actual manual labor, would mostly likely turn to prostitution were she to actually leave B’s estate (250-51).
According to Rosenthal, this invasion of sexual immorality into an otherwise virtuous way of life (that of the working-class woman who returns home to avoid being ruined by the advances of her male master), explores the possibility of virtue's failure in young women, and, more importantly, touches on the “broader crisis of labor and economic security for women, for which prostitution emerges as a symptom rather than a cause” (251). In fact, the overarching argument of the entire article, although hard to decipher until the end, is that the capitalization of labor via the rise in industry during the eighteenth century devalues the role of women within the household, forcing them to turn to the public sphere to provide for themselves and their families. Of course, this was, in and of itself, problematic because the wages, hours, and positions available to women were extremely limited. Thus, because of their decreased significance and social restrictions, many working-class women turned to prostitution as a means of employment. (252). Pamela is said to represent this conflict: no matter what she chooses – to remain in B’s service and most likely succumb to his advances, or return home to manual labor for which she was not bred nor accustomed to – she runs the risk of having no choice but to compromise her virtue for the sake of her livelihood.
Rosenthal emphasized a lot of aspects of the novel that are otherwise easy to overlook. For instance, she points out that Pamela never really has to face the consequences of maintaining her virtue in the face of B’s advances – she thinks quite a bit about returning home, but never actually does for any length of time. Prior to reading this article, I thought that the delay of her departure was simply a frustrating aspect of 18th century literature - the story would end if she followed through - but now, I am leaning towards believing it served a larger purpose than just prolonging the story. I also had never thought of manual labor being the same, or falling into the same category, as prostitution, but Rosenthal does make a compelling case that the two are one in the same in this novel.
That being said, do you buy it? Does Richardson purposefully imply that Pamela’s return to manual labor would inevitably lead her to a life of prostitution? Furthermore, if that implication exists, what does that do to the moral of the novel? Is Pamela still a book on how men and women can go about preserving their virtue and resisting temptation, and if so, does it change the temptation in question from sleeping with Master B to succumbing to a life of working-class prostitution?
Rosenthal, Laura J. "Pamela's Work." Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 46.3 (2005): 245-253. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 14 Sept. 2011.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Could Mr. B actually be trying to be civil to Pamela?
Is Pamela provoking him?
Should she have been more forgiving and open minded?
Or is Mr. B truly as deceptive as Pamela perceives?
Give Specific examples.
You can find a more detailed depiction of these eighteenth-century stays (the precursor of the corset) here (historical re-enactors apparently find examples of pre-American-revolutionary stays hard to come by, so this set created quite a stir when it appeared on e-bay).
There are a few examples in museums around the world, but they tend to be more elaborate that what Pamela (and her counterparts in the colonies) would have worn. For example:
And you can find an interactive explanation of how the stays worked with the rest of Pamela's clothing here (an excellent site from Colonial Williamsburg.
As a couple of people mentioned in class today, we get a LOT of information about Pamela's clothing through her letters. Some people in discussion suggested that her preoccupation with clothes reflects Pamela's vanity and greed. Others, more charitably, thought it conveyed her immaturity. What do you think? Cite some text to support your claim.
UPDATE: Those interested in the issues raised by Pamela's clothes should have a look at Taylor's secondary literature post above, which offers a possible interpretation of Pamela's three bundles of clothes.
Deadline: Thursday (9/15), start of class.
Monday, September 12, 2011
In his article “The Epistolary Monitor in Pamela,” Richard Hauer Costa discusses the use of epistolary and diary narrative and argues that the (primarily) epistolary form “has an efficacy in Pamela beyond the merits commonly ascribed to it” (39). He explains that writing in the form of letters was natural for Samuel Richardson, as Richardson himself wrote thousands of letters during his lifetime. However, the epistolary form of Pamela carries more significance than simply a young girl writing letters; the letters themselves imbue life into the novel and take on a life of their own.
Costa explains that “epistolary form is the dues ex machina for the novel,” that is, it is introduced in order to help make sense of any seeming improbabilities in the plot (40). Costa believes, and I agree with him, that in Pamela’s character, we see a duel nature: a woman who is desperately wants to give into the predatory man that is pursuing her while attempting to maintain appearances of chastity. Pamela writes in her letters that she is terribly afraid of her ‘Master’ and that she fears for her reputation, yet she lingers in his house, making only half-hearted attempts to find lodging elsewhere. What Costa means by the term dues ex machina, then, is that because Pamela is writing the letters, we are able to see this duality in her person. She is writing her personal feelings and creating a very intimate space on the page, but, simultaneously, she is aware that others will read her letters. It is, then, in the epistolary form that the ambiguity in her motives is seen.
Through the creation of this intimate diary space, the epistolary form takes on the role as an active agent within the story. Again, Pamela is creating a private sphere through documenting her private feelings, and she is furnishing this private domain to her own specifications. She is communicating feelings she attributes to herself, and writing personal feelings; however, these letters are also written with the purpose of being read by another party, which means that they are not an entirely private space like a diary would be. She continuously refers to Mr. B as a “Tempter,” yet she shows sadness when he manipulates her and shows “concern…to see such a Gentleman so demean himself, and lessen the Regard he used to have in the Eyes of all his Servants on my account.” She then immediately disregards the severity of the situation and what she has just said and turns her focus to superficiality by declaring, “But I am to tell you of my new Dress to Day” (55). The letters act as live agent in that Pamela’s true nature is revealed in all that she says/does not say and all that she does/does not do. She declares to be afraid of Mr. B, but then she immediately changes the topic to something trivial. She continually denies his advances but makes no attempt to remove herself from the situation. As I have not yet read the entire novel I cannot make a judgment regarding all her motives, but it does seem as though she enjoys Mr. B’s advances but wants to retain the appearances of chastity. Again, she is betrayed in her letters as the epistolary form takes on the role as an active agent in the story. As Costa mentions, The writing of the leters is only the beginning; they are copied, sent, received, showed about, discussed, answered, even perhaps hidden, intercepted, stolen, altered, or forged” (40). Beyond showing insight to Pamela’s dual nature and actions, the letters are literally active.
So, I ask…do you think Pamela is interested in Mr. B’s advances? Do you think that the epistolary form gives us any information or insight to Pamela? How does the epistolary form differ from the diary form; how are they similar; and what sort of secrets of ourselves are given away in each form?
Hauer Costa, Richard. "The Epistolary Monitor in Pamela." Modern Language Quarterly 31.1 (1970): 38-47. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Sept. 2011.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
In Oroonoko, intra-racial African slaves are considered socially obligated to their African masters, but retain their previous social standing as defined solely through lineage and class distinctions. This nominally equitable balance of hierarchy and maintained social standing begins to derail with the outside introduction of slave-as-commodity, as introduced by white Europeans. To the culture of Oroonoko, slaves are not property, rather they are people beholden to those who captured/defeated them in war. The idea of racially defined slaves considered to be interchangeable property, with no regard for the social standing or ancestry of those enslaved, disgusts the high-class Oroonoko and showcases the tainted influence of the "all-corrupting commercial order" introduced by the European slave-traders. (Gautier)
In Robinson Crusoe, the viewpoint shifts from an outsider seeing the change in the definitions of the institution of slavery to one entrenched in its application. Crusoe repeatedly acquires slaves and even fantasizes about owning slaves, even after being himself enslaved. His immediate willingness to sell his loyal slave-boy Xury and his later voyage to acquire slaves for his fellow plantation owners both showcase the slave-commodity mindset. Still, Crusoe considers slave ownership in the context of his own social standing, that his ownership derives from his social and racial superiority and is so justified, despite his moral ambiguities on the subject at times.
Completing the narrative transition from the viewpoint of outsider to slaveholder to slave, Equiano shows how all social recognition and humanity are stripped from African slaves by their white slave traders. Ironically, this process of De-humanization cuts both ways: the slave traders themselves lose their humanity by denying the same to those they trade. Equiano focuses on reforming the Western system of mercantile slavery, desiring first and foremost to see the inhumane British colonial system of slavery to be abandoned, and if possible the African system as well.
Gautier closes by emphasizing that the transition from class-based slavery to race-based slavery resulted in the dehumanization of slaves in order for the institution itself to be socially intelligible.
After reflecting upon his analysis, an alternative interpretation presents itself, that without the mercantile expansion of slavery from Africa itself to the colonial world, slavery would not have transitioned to a race-defined, De-humanized commodity.
The raising of the market context of things and people above the social or moral permeates Crusoe. Repeatedly he stresses the economic view of his circumstances after only a cursory statement of his own emotions or the human side of the situation. From his ownership of the plantation to his tallying of the recovered supplies from the ship to his final return to England and subsequent inheritance, Crusoe always comes back to the bottom line of his personal wealth and possessions.
How does this mercantile mindset impact his other beliefs and ideals? Can his inconsistent religious observance be attributed to this "what do I get out of it" mentality, or are his beliefs more complex? Does he really value only property and wealth? If so, why? If not, how does his mercantile mindset impact his relationships with the people he meets throughout the novel?
Gautier, Gary. "Slavery and the Fashioning of Race in Oroonoko, Robinson Crusoe, and Equjono's Life." Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 42.2 (2001): 161+. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 Sep. 2011.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Feel free to answer any of the questions below in your response--just specify which you are responding to! You can also respond by reflecting on or modifying a classmate's response (but as always be kind and collegial).
1. What sort of a person is Pamela? How would you characterize her? (Cite some text to support your assessment).
2. Does Richardson want us to see Mrs. Jervis as a good character or a bad character? What makes you think so?
3. What sort of an actor should play the character of Mr. B in a movie version of this novel? Don't just name a plausible actor--explain what particular qualities that actor brings to the screen that would be particularly suitable for Mr. B.
Deadline: start of class on Tuesday (9/13); posts before midnight Saturday count for Week 3; after midnight Saturday it's week 4.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
How can we reconcile these dissonant traits of the need to control and the impulse to give to or act kindly towards those he perceives as his social inferiors?
Is Crusoe just an imperialistic self-styled lord of all he surveys, or a severely traumatized, insecure refugee filling a psychological need to have control over his unpredictable circumstances?
Is that to fine a distinction to make?
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
What role does money, or wealth play for him on the island? Has he completely let go of the old society he used to live in, or does the idea of wealth still stick with him?
In what ways does he show he does or does not care about the rules and hierarchy of England? Has this affected his moral compass, or not?
Monday, September 5, 2011
Deadline: Thursday (9/8), start of class.
On one hand, Crusoe dedicates time (and Defoe dedicates pages) to observance of the Sabbath, mention of Providence, education of Friday, etc. On the other hand, Crusoe credits much of his fortune and ability to master his surroundings to his own intellect or craftiness.
What do you think about this? Is his reverence of God circumstantial or does this merely reflect the nature of man (or on a narrower scope, the nature of Crusoe) to bolster his own pride or self-worth?
Continuing on the subject of the nature of man, and on a mildly unrelated note (so in my mind, a response to this post does not need to address both sets of questions, unless you can!), I found one particular passage very thought provoking. On page 102, we see Crusoe state that he was "removed from all the wickedness of the world here". Essentially, he believes himself better, purer, etc. To what extent is this true? Can being deserted on an island really "cure" an impious soul, and is Robinson Crusoe even any less "wicked" than before?
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Respond to this post by describing what you ate for breakfast, as Robinson Crusoe would do so (that is, imagine that Crusoe is living your life and eating your breakfast, but using the sentence structure and vocabulary that comes naturally to him). Then write a sentence or two articulating or describing the particular features of Defoe's prose style that seem most important to emulate (feel free to expand on, modify, or otherwise respond to the explanation that other classmates give in their responses).
Since these responses require two different things (the breakfast description that emulates Defoe AND some thoughts about his language), I'll grade it out of 5 points rather than 3, as follows--
5 points: captures Defoe's style beautifully in the breakfast description AND says something original and thought-provoking about hist style
4 points: captures Defoe's style beautifully OR says something original and thought-provoking, but not both.
3 points: solid effort to emulate Defoe but lapses into more typically 21st-century structures or vocab; accurate observations about style
2 points: weak effort to emulate Defoe OR inaccurate observations about style
1 point: you wrote some vaguely relevant words.
Deadline: Tuesday (9/6); posts before midnight on Saturday count towards Week 2; posts after midnight Saturday count toward Week 3.