Is there a “less than?” Tristram’s Question for the Day

“But many Britons were troubled. Humanitarian feelings grew in strength throughout the later eighteenth century. A famous, sentimental exchange of letters between the black writer Ignatius Sancho and Laurence Sterne, the author of Tristram Shandy, displays their mutual sympathy for the victims of the slave trade. Such cruelty was a libel on human nature.”

 

From Slavery and the Slave Trade in Britain – The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century

http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/18century/topic_2/welcome.htm

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iPhones, iPods, iPads, eBooks, ePistolaries

I’m really not an “audiobookaphile.” I never trusted any text I couldn’t markup with my trusted pastel pens.  But here I was on a Saturday morning, sitting in my daughter’s jeep, waiting for her to finish in the nail shop, with nothing to do. It’s our mother-daughter bonding time. When you are 50-something and she is 20-something, you take what you can get.

And there’s a problem. Lately, I keep forgetting my book! And there’s another problem. These days, it’s getting harder and harder to find a newspaper. I look up and down the strip mall. No hope. What’s left? Only my iPhone.

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On a Clear Day (or daydream?), You Can See Clarissa

It’s probably the prettiest day we’ve had all year. The sun is streaming through my patio doors and the sky is wearing light blue, dotted with really diaphanous cloud diamonds. But I sit in a dark fog inside. I had shamefully confessed to my professor earlier this morning that I was “catching it” with my book report on Leah Price’s The Anthology and the Rise of the Novel. I had been struggling with the book for days, without a break through. I complained that the book is dense and the sentence structure difficult. To add insult to injury, some of the terms are not even in the dictionary, especially the French ones. “Whine, whine, whine.”  I’m still sighing, as I look up. I see her, clear as day. It has to be, Clarissa.

She just floats into the room through the patio doors wearing a bright yellow silk gown and a bright smile. She settles serenely into a seat next to me like the sunlight. Startled, I say, “Where did you come from? I thought I was done with your author, Richardson. I finished Pamela.”

“Yes, but you didn’t even think about me. I am his best heroine. Leah writes about me,” She says.

“Yeah…. Like Leah writes about a gazzillion characters and a gazzillion authors and a gazzillion forms of writing. That’s my problem. What am I supposed to do with all of this? I only have so much time and I have many more deadlines,” I still whine.

“Look,” Clarissa, says. “It’s a beautiful day. It’s a clear day. Let’s go for a ride.”

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Rhetoric of the Ridiculous: Fielding’s Philosophy

Initially, I imagined that Henry Fielding must have had rollicking good fun turning Samuel Richardson’s Pamela on her head in Fielding’s Shamela, while at the same time, lampooning his least favorite people, politics, practices and institutions. His artistry is so complete, I wonder if the piece serves as a case study for aspiring writers of satire even today.

I was really curious as to how Fielding came into his “genius,” whether it was by nature or nurture.

From what I could find in a quick, limited search, it seems he invested a great deal of study in his art of poking fun at pet subjects and even proposed a serious, sophisticated theory of comic writing, incorporating a philosophy of affectation, vanity and hypocrisy as the possible paths to a sort of rhetoric of the “Ridiculous.”

Now I’m thinking, maybe his Shamela was a lot more like work than play.

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“Petticoat Papers” and who wins in the end?

Our readings this week offer a great deal of insight into the questions of rhetorical concealment, paradox and duplicity on many levels in Richardson’s Pamela, such as whether the novel served as an example of virtue or was instead a “Shamela,” that promoted the very vices it claimed to discourage.

One of the debatable issues for me was who really won in the end. Although Pamela definitely managed to preserve her physical virtue, I’m not sure that she maintained her soul. I think a part of this particular debate is all sewn up in her petticoat.

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Picking Deep Pockets in Richardson’s Pamela

What kind of pockets hold 40 sheets of paper, a dozen pens and a phial of ink, along with wax and wafers? When I read Pamela’s description, in captivity, of her private pocket stash, I was a little curious, and imagined that her 18th century “pockets” were something very different from those riveted to my jeans.

My thoughts were confirmed when I found a study, “Women’s Pockets and the Construction of Privacy in the Long Eighteenth Century,” written by Ariane Fennetaux and published in Eighteenth Century Fiction 20, no. 3 (Spring 2008). Fennetaux describes the history, function and cultural significance of these “pockets” for women of the time. In fact, Fennetaux argues that the pockets enabled a kind of personal privacy and independence for women that they were denied in most aspects of their lives.

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What the Dickens!…Defoe no emotion?

Ian Watt notes in his article on “Robinson Crusoe, Individualism and the Novel,” that “Dickens once decided on the basis of Defoe’s treatment of women that he must have been ‘a precious dry and disagreeable article himself’.”

The Norton edition of the novel includes a fuller critique from Dickens that’s even more of an indictment against Defoe’s emotional side. Dickens states that, “Robinson Crusoe should be the only instance of an universally popular book that could make no one laugh and could make no one cry” (p. 274)

Even Watt himself perpetuates this characterization of a “dry Defoe” by charging that Robinson Crusoe is rather cavalier in personal relationships such as those with Xury and Friday.

I think both Dickens and Watt are just a bit unfair.

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