Tuesday, September 27, 2011

For Credit: Shamela's Positive Message?

The following painting was based on Richardson's Pamela, and engravings of this image served as black-and-white illustrations for later editions of the nove.   The painting now serves as the cover of the Penguin edition of Pamela and Joseph Andrews (a combined edition), where it invites an ironic reading of the image that neither Richardson nor Joseph Highmore (the painter) probably intended.

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.

For Credit: What Have We Learned? (L'Shanah Tovah!)

Picart, Shofar Sounded in a Portuguese Synagogue, 1728.
As some of us celebrate the Jewish New Year, it's a good moment to pause and reflect on where things stand thus far.  We've read Fantomina, Robinson Crusoe, the title page and opening to Gulliver's Travels, Pamela, and we've just started Shamela.

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

For Credit: Paper Writing Issues?

Feel free to respond to this post with complaints, observations, perplexities, or advice about the first paper assignment as you work on it over the weekend. 

Deadline: Tuesday (9/27), start of class.  What week it counts for depends on whether you post before or after midnight on Saturday.

For Credit: Pamela Follow-Up

We never got around to "Material for Discussion" question (a), which asked you to identify a couple of Squire B's "Rules" for Pamela (on pp. 448 - 451) that either demonstrate a halt to her process of growth, maturation, and self assertion OR demonstrate its continuation.

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.

NOT for Credit: Upcoming Fun in 429

Pamela Writing (Joseph Highmore, 1745, Wikigallery)

Your papers are due Tuesday.  I have not assigned any reading for that day on the syllabus, but you should bring your printout of Shamela to class AND Pamela, so we can wrap up the one text and begin the other.  By all means, start reading Shamela if you have the time.  It's a pretty quick read, and those of you who disliked Pamela will find it deeply, deeply satisfying.

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

Robin Lee - Secondary Literature Blog Post

A. M. Kearney claims  that “a highly original mode of writing in a new genre, deserves another kind of treatment” (28) and that Samuel Richardson’s critics – including Richardson’s peers, Henry Fielding and Laurence Sterne - have abused and satirized Pamela with the narrowest approach due to their preoccupation with the heroine herself.
Kearney looked at Pamela as an artistic whole and gives his perspective on Richardson’s attempt to marry the internal and the external narrative viewpoint through the epistolary form in Pamela; he argues that Richardson presents the problems that arise from both constructive process in the art of fiction and from the narration and style of epistolary technique.
Richardson had the task of resolving the tension between being in the “subjective pulse of experience” (32) and sensationalizing the work with the uncensored contents of his mind and heading towards the objective voice as an author, not only in order to enlarge the his spectrum of readers but to show his realization in the readership that “without civilized recognition virtue is powerless in terms of influence”. This change from subjective perspective to an objective one in Part II also suggests Pamela’s changing function as a heroine who is moving from the low-class life to a high-class. Kearney  notes that “The alliance between the “inflaming” and the “spiritual” in Pamela is perhaps an uneasy one, but certainly one reason for the reaching after the formal style in Pamela’s reflective letters is an awareness on Richardson’s part of its value as an intellectual counterweight” (31) as a didactic art.
Kearney suggests that as much as Richardson was successful with letting his character to create her own literature he also failed by “intruding as commentator regardless of dramatic context” (37). The ultimate disconnect that grows between Richardson and his readers stem from Richardson asking his readers to accept Pamela as both of those roles – as “both participant and commentator” (38). In the process of shifting to an objective voice, along with Pamela’s own voice, Richardson’s own authorial voice is expressed through Pamela. The double function of Pamela as both “character” and “author” creates two voices: one coming from spontaneous moments and experience, and the other coming from an observer’s point of view. The imbalance that Richardson tried to solve within the novel became a problem for the ultimate authorial voice and Kearney believes this is where the critical voices of both the past and modern readers enter to point out. 
Kearney concludes by praising Richardson's struggle to establish and define the epistolary form itself and acknowledges his courageous attempt at creating a complex work of fiction that not only acquaint his readers with the real situation and moral landscape of the work but also intellectualizes it. 

I respected Kearney's approach of not judging whether Richardson achieved a success or not and instead observing the struggle that Richardson experienced in the process and his own effort to fuse the separate voices in the epistolary form. His comparisons between Richardson and Henry Fielding was also interesting: “Like Fielding, Richardson is also aware of the value of style as dramatic function. Unlike Fielding, however, who utilized his stylistic excursions to point various comic incongruities, Richardson was mainly concerned with the literary style as an expression of moral being” (35). The essay helped me to take a look at Pamela again and see the struggle that Richardson must have experienced while establishing the narrative structure and Pamela's voice. 

What do you think of the epistolary form? Do you think it is possible to successfully fuse the internal and external narrative viewpoint? How successful do you think Richardson was in his attempt?
For those of you who have read Tom Jones by Henry Fielding, do you think Richardson did a better job at engaging with the issues surrounding epistolary form in the narrative structure? 

Works Cited
Kearney, A. M. “Richardson’s Pamela: the Aesthetic Case.” Samuel Richardson: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. John Carroll. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, INC. 1969. 28 – 38. Print.

Pamela Blog Post - Jesse Colin

Considering the classroom commentary of KW and the copious prefatory material, it is clear that we are to understand Pamela as a pop-culture phenomenon. What about the novel made it so? Is it in some way a challenge to the rigid socio-economic structure of C18 England? Is it sensational becaus of the sexual content? What pop-culture phenomenon of C21 would you compare to Pamela and why?
On a different note, do you like to read introductions and editor's notes? Sometimes I feel like the experience of reading a novel should be between me and the author, but in this case I think Richardson was intentinally creating a public, sensational experience. How has extra-fabula material, or intertextuality, significantly affected something you've read before, wither within or outside of your academic reading?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Why Your Instructor Gives a F*** about the Oxford Comma (and Why You Should, Too)

Required Blog Post: Kirsten Mendoza

      In volume II, we learn why Squire B. has chosen Pamela as a wife. On page 445, he explains that he believes that fewer Men than Women love better after marriage. This is why, the woman he should marry must be a woman he prefers above all her Sex. Secondly, he must be assured of her fidelity to him and preference of him over all other men. He states, “The Word Command, on my Side, or Obedience, on hers, I would have blotted from my vocabulary” (446).  Although he declares that his married life would not be like the relationship between a master and a servant based on command and obedience, it is rather interesting that pages 448-451 are devoted to forty-eight rules upon which he expects Pamela to OBEY.

It may seem as though volume II is nothing less than an instruction manual on how a good wife should be. Squire B. alludes to his imperfections, and advises her to be free to tell him anything so that “nothing may lie upon either of our minds that shall occasion the least Reservedness” (368, Richardson).  Pamela, in response, does not point out any of his flaws, but rather, informs him of her graciousness and subjection to his will. She continuously refers to Squire B, as the “charming Man” and her “dearest dear Sir.” Squire B describes how many women lose their figure and dress after marriage “as if she would take no Pains to secure the Affection she had gained” (368, Richardson).  He even tells her that he will rise in Summer at six in the morning, and that he will ALLOW her to lie “half an Hour after me, or so” (368, Richardson).

            A man such as Squire B. who wishes to never be denied chooses for a wife, a servant girl. He does not want a relationship based on command and obedience, and yet he constantly instructs her on how to be the wife he envisions her to be. One must wonder if such liberties would have been taken had she been a woman of noble birth.

1)   Do you believe that part of Pamela’s appeal to Squire B. is not just her beauty and chastity, but also the fact that as a servant girl brought to a higher status because of matrimony, Squire B. can expect nothing less than obedience due to the wife’s gratefulness? (An interesting passage showing the double standard of a woman descending to a lower class based on a marriage to a man beneath them and a man raising the woman he marries may be found on Page 422)

2)   Richardson gives Squire B. a past with Sally Godfrey. He even has an illegitimate child, Miss Goodwin.  Are these experiences meant for us to have a harsher and more hypocritical look of Squire B., or rather, are these meant to show us Pamela’s bountiful love and goodness? Pamela is able to look past his double standard and manipulatively controlling ways and still remains faithful and always praising of his person.

3)   What do you all think the lengthy Volume II is meant to signify? Do you think Victorian women would have read his instructions on being a good wife with complaisance or do you think they would have viewed his ideas critically?

Hannah Keller Secondary Lit Post: Pamela

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?

Works Cited

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

For Information: Upcoming Fun in 429

I just e-mailed everyone the link to the prompt for the first assignment, but you can also find it over there in the sidebar, under "Course Information."  If you have questions about this assignment, or wish to clarify any of the instructions, please feel free to respond to this post with your question.  You can e-mail me privately, of course, but others may share your confusion, and questions/responses posted here are available to the class as a whole, even though you don't get blog credit for them.

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

For Credit: Well, What Would YOU Like To Write About?

As I said in class today, a paper prompt should be coming your way, sometime this weekend.  But in the meantime, what would you like to write about for this paper?  Given the material we've read so far, what questions or issues would you like to explore further in a sustained piece of writing?

Deadline: Saturday (9/17) midnight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Secondary Lit. Post on Pamela - Taylor Pinion

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?

Works Cited:

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

Required Blog Post: Nathan Griffin

Throughout the novel so far, we've seen that Mr. B seems to have a devious plot in mind for Pamela. However, Pamela also seems to have made up her mind about him ever since the first incident in the Summer-house.

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.

For Credit (and Background): Pamela's Clothes UPDATED

Robin's post below makes reference to some of the passages where Pamela stashes her letters down her front; in class today some people also mentioned Pamela's candor in telling her parents about getting groped by Mr. B. Here's the relevant garment for all of these incidents:

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.

Robin Lee Blog Questions: Pamela pg. 1 - 98

Pg. 12
“… in comes my young master! Good Sirs! How as I frightened! I went to hide the Letter in my Bosom…”
Pg. 29
“I Broke off abruptly my last Letter; for I fear’d he was coming; and so it happen’d. I thrust the Letter into my Bosom, and took up my Work…”

Although Squire B does enter Pamela’s dressing room unannounced, she always unsuccessfully tries to hide the letters inside her bust quite clumsily and in the presence of Squire B, therefore giving an opportunity for Squire B to be titillated. Do these moments accentuate the invasion of space by Squire B and his inappropriate behaviors? Or do they reveal Pamela’s conscious or unconscious desire to attract Squire B and create erotic situations for herself?

Pg. 32
“He by Force kissed my neck and Lips and said, Who ever blamed Lucretia, but the Ravisher only? … May I, said I, Lucretia like, justify myself with my Death, if I am used barbarously?”

“O my good Girl! Said he, tauntingly, you are well read, I see; and we shall make out between us, before we have done, a pretty Story in Romance, I warrant ye!”

What is the significance of the allusion to the tale of Lucretia?  Also, what is the significance of the different ways Squire B and Pamela interpreted the outcome of Lucretia’s rape?

Pg. 53
“… Then they all set up a great Laugh. I know what I could have said, if I durst. But they are Ladies – and Ladies may say any thing.

The “Ladies” can “say any thing,” but Pamela can only voice her true thoughts only through her letters. What do you think of the novel’s epistolary form? And what is the relationship between Pamela’s agency and the novel’s form?
How would you view Pamela’s agency if the novel was in a form of a diary? 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Megan Mayfield: Secondary Lit Post

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

Robinson Crusoe Secondary lit. Post by Carl (delayed)

In his critical analysis essay "Slavery and the Fashioning of Race in Oroonoko, Robinson Crusoe, and Equjono's Life," Gary Gautier examines the sociological progression of slavery from a class-based social institution to a class-and-race based servile destinction to the purely race-based property definition which the West remembers even 150 years after the final dissolution of the practice.

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

For Credit: Pamela Grab-Bag

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.

For Credit: Robinson Crusoe Follow-Up

What would you have liked to say in class about Robinson Crusoe but didn't have a chance to?

What questions remain in your mind about this novel?

Is there anything you would like to add?

Deadline: Saturday (9/10), midnight.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Carl Kerschner Student Blog Post

Throughout the narrative, Crusoe demonstrates a strong tendency towards seeking domination or mastery of his own life, of his environment or property, and of servants and native peoples. At the same time, he seems compelled to certain acts of compassion or consideration, such as his relationship with his neighboring plantation owner before going to sea once again.

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

Samantha Bakall Student Blog Post

We've seen in the later part of the book that Robinson Crusoe's view of money has changed significantly. Starting as something he greatly desired to acquire, it has become merely something of little to no value once he is on the island.

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

Images of Crusoe (not for credit, just insight)

Robinson Crusoe is one of those stories that, like Romeo and Juliet, or Uncle Tom's Cabin, has taken on a life of its own in the cultural imagination:

For Credit: The Crusoe Doctrine

As soon as Defoe discovers that other people--cannibals!--have been coming to "his" island, he begins to consider how he ought to deal with them.  He flip-flops on the issue several times.  Identify one of the turns his thinking takes, cite the text in which it appears, and offer some reflections about (a) the reasons for his changing reflections OR (b) how this moment fits into the overall narrative arc or moral import of the novel.

Deadline: Thursday (9/8), start of class.

Robinson Crusoe Blog Post by Hannah Keller

Returning to the theme of religion in Robinson Crusoe, we see a great deal of disparity in this middle portion of the novel; that is, Crusoe's mention of religion is sporadic.

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

For Credit: Robinson Crusoe's Breakfast

As you get started on the reading for Tuesday, think about what makes Defoe's style of writing so unfamiliar and strange to us.  Read a few pages, think about the rhythm of his sentences, the kind of vocabulary he chooses, the way he wraps words around ideas--and then have a go at it yourself.

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. 

Gina Chinino 1st Blog Post on Robinson Crusoe

In the novel "Fantomina", we as readers discussed an underlying pro-feminism messages throughout the text. 

Now in "Robinson Crusoe", there is a different message: religion. Robinson Crusoe puts the blame on God when something bad happens to him, but also says it was God's doing when something good happens to him. 

Do you think that Daniel Defoe is spiritual and mirrored this character after his religious beliefs? In what lines are these comments the strongest? Or do you feel that when Robinson Crusoe gets lucky or comes across misfortune has nothing to do with religion? Do you feel there is a stronger message Defoe is trying to portray in his writing besides religion? If so, what is it andwhy do you feel this way?