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.

12 comments:

  1. Although Shamela is a novel aimed at making a mockery of Pamela, Fielding does acknowledge that even though he is making fun of Pamela, it was indeed a good novel. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and that is exactly what Shamela is. Even in Fielding's first couple paragraphs, he tells the reader that Pamela was a novel that had impact on society. "To be short, this book will live to the age of the patriarchs, and like them will carry on the good work many hundreds of years hence, among our posterity" (17). He knows that women do have their daughters read Pamela in order to see how a proper lady should act because they don't interpret the novel as he has. He has created Shamela in order to show the public that Pamela is not as virtuous as the public thought she was.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I do believe that Fielding’s parody of Pamela offers a sincere moral framework which focuses on society’s view of virtue and chastity as well as hypocrisy. Throughout this work, we are confronted with Shamela’s insincerity, base, and manipulative behavior. She knowingly seduces Master Booby and then feigns being prudent in order to continue leading him on to a potential marriage. Her letters to her mother are most vulgar and show how she is just playing a game and doing whatever she can to secure a position of wealth. Shamela describes how she pretended to be nervous and blush on her wedding night by “holding my Breath, and squeezing my Cheeks with my Handkerchief” (Fielding). She even states that she may have been satisfied had she never been acquainted with Parson Williams” (Fielding). To this little bit of TMI, I wrote in my notes, “Oh SNAP!” Shamela only marries Booby for his money and detests his person. I believe that Mr. Williams vocation as a minister is necessary in order to truly make this affair as horrible as can be. He is a clergyman who is supposed to lead others spiritually, and yet he tells Shamela that they shall meet together and give each other pleasure. To do so is alright since they will both repent the next day.
    Society’s view of chastity and virtue as the main qualifications for discerning a woman’s worth and hypocrisy go hand in hand. If society did not require women to be virgins when they marry, then men would look at other characteristics of the woman before they decide if she is worthy of marriage. This immense value on a woman’s pure body, a purity that she can feign and use to her advantage to manipulate men leaves society blind to the woman as a whole. Had Booby not been so bent upon having sex with her and taking her virtue, had he taken a good hard look at Shamela, a woman who openly seduces him and uses vulgar language, perhaps he would have been aware of the true woman he marries. Instead, however, he is blinded by his desire of her virtue. He buys her feigned chastity and suffers for it. This leaves open the possibility that perhaps not only virgins, but also women who are known to be “ruined” may make better wives than Shamela who shams her “worth.”

    ReplyDelete
  3. P.S.- I just read Megan's post on Jesse's question about how C18 were basically all freaks and literally laughed out loud. I thought it was fabulous and think that the song "Super Freak" by Rick James should be played in class while we write our attendance responses just to get us into the correct frame of mind... Super Freaky!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. 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?

    I am enjoying Shamela. And I feel like what Fielding is doing is showing more of the corrupt side of virtue. I have no idea where I picked this up from, but there is the idea that your greatest virtue can be your greatest vice. In the external view, one can seem incredibly virtuous, but when people see the motivation behind the actions it might not be as pretty. Fielding seems to give readers the idea that there is always two sides to a story. The external and the internal. Victims and the victimizers... how roles can change. In Pamela, Squire B is a terrible fellow but in Shamela, Pamela and the parson are the victimizers.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think that a main function of many works of fiction is to make the readers think about the society in which they are living. Feilding's satire of Pamela, Shamela, is no different. Through this text, I think that Feilding is asking his readers to not blindly accept that a text is good and morally correct (as the opening letters of Pamela claim) without analyzing the text themselves-- in other words, I think that Feilding is encouraging readers to read novels and other publications without any preconceived thoughts about what they are supposed to learn.

    ReplyDelete
  6. (When Christina said "ribaldry" in her post, this was the first thing that came to my mind: http://www.hulu.com/watch/19301/saturday-night-live-tales-of-ribaldry)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Robin! What in the world?! Hahaha! I don't get it! I don't even know that word! XDDD

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh and I agree with Krista. "to make the readers think about the society in which they are living." Not just merely living in it, but seeing it through a "nicely polished looking glass" which James Joyce uses to see his Dubliners.

    ReplyDelete
  9. OHHH. I copy and pasted KW's post on accident :P ribaldry.... hehe...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Haha, I think "ribaldry" stood out the second time when Christina used it for her post because of the painting that accompanies KW's question. Hooray for vintage SNL.

    I have to agree with Krista about Fielding “asking his readers to not blindly accept that a text is good and morally correct without analyzing the text themselves.” Fielding “exposes” the other dimensions of each character that were not portrayed in Richardson’s version so the readers can have a second-reading on Pamela and go beyond the Richardsonian morality.

    When Shamela is concerned about Mr. Williams, she quotes a line from The Beggar’s Opera - “Nothing moves one so much as a great Man in Distress”- and I’m sure that the 18th Century readers were acquainted with The Beggar’s Opera and caught this as joke. This line is a part of a lament performed by two women before the hero/anti-hero. Macheath, is about to be hanged and then a sort of deus ex machina happens that allows the play to end in Macheath’s marriage to one of the women despite his wrongdoings as a criminal. Mr. Williams also embodies such mix of a hero and an anti-hero and the humor comes from the fact that Pamela, in attempt to glorify Mr. Williams, is calling out on his duality and his hypocrisy by quoting such line.
    Fielding references various literature throughout the story (The Whole Duty of Amn, Venus in the Cloyster..., Rochetster’s Poems, etc) and his assumption that the readers will catch his points because they are familiar with them also displays his faith in his readers as being well-rounded. By providing such parody like Shamela, Fielding tries to broaden the C18 readers’ spectrum on human conditions and challenges them to have more of a gray approach to moral issues rather than black and white.

    I also think that we should be paying attention to the ending of Shamela. Do the readers get a happy ending or not? Shamela in a way ends up with Mr. Williams but according to Parson Tickletext Mr. Booby “[turns] her off and [prosecutes Mr. Williams] in the spiritual Court.” How does Fielding’s ending serve a possible moral framework?
    (The Beggar’s Opera suggests that the latter part of the play was constructed by the audience’s demand for a happy ending and Pamela is also rewarded by earning a legitimate, higher social status and also proving her virtue by being able to embrace Ms. Goodwin at the end)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Although Fielding's work "Shamela" critiques many of the moral lessons of "Pamela", Fielding doesn't altogether avoid teaching his own moral lessons. In fact, through his critique of "Pamela" he points out many flaws in its approach to morality. One of the most obvious critiques of "Pamela" is the inclusion of such explicit sexual details throughout the text. Fielding includes mockery in his rendition of "Pamela" through the emotions that the story elicits. After making several sexual references, Fielding writes, "I feel another Emotion", assumed to mean an erection. Fielding is criticizing what he feels is the purpose of "Pamela"; that is, although it claims to be teaching a moral lesson, it is eliciting the sexual tensions and emotions in the reader that the story itself critiques. There are also several references to clergymen that critique their "ambiguous nature". While the clergyman in "Pamela", Parson Williams, is revered and thought of in the highest sense, Fielding indicates his purpose as a sexual pursuit for Pamela. It is portrayed very bluntly in "Shamela": when talking about her "bosom", Shamela recalls that "Parson Williams says, that it is the most beautiful part of a Woman" when she is getting ready to see him. I think that Fielding reveals "Pamela" as a completely failed attempt at teaching a lesson of virtue. He proves that, although the story exhibits the idea of virtue through Pamela's refusal to engage in sex, there are many aspects that make "virtue" not only an object of sexual identification, but something that can be identified through thoughts and feelings. Even though Pamela refused to engage in sex, there are many things about her actions that are shameful and should not be revered. The idea of this is exaggerated in "Shamela", of course, in Shamela's constant seeking for attention from the male characters. I haven't completely figured out what Fielding wants the reader to take away as a "positive" from reading fictional works. I feel that he may be trying to teach us that, like real people, fictional characters have their own battles to fight. He points out great flaw in the fictional character of Pamela, who is meant to be a symbol of perfection.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I agree with Gina's post, in which she said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. the overtly sexual nature of Shamela shows that Fields believes there is something deeper within the text of Pamela, but it is hidden within. This is similar to the nature of sex in c18, while it may be there it is not discussed publicly.

    ReplyDelete