Wednesday, November 9, 2011

For Credit: Questions for Tomorrow's Class

I've gotten e-mail about the questions I posted on the board Tuesday from people who didn't write them down and wanted their memory jogged. I didn't write them down either, so this wording may vary from what you copied down, but:

  • How does Evelina fit into the other novels we've read this semester? Are we seeing the novel develop as a genre--or just change?
  • In Evelina, does Burney depict or critique the status quo as far as gender is concerned? Does the novel suggest (however subtly) that the world would be better if it were different for women, or does the novel simply accept the injustices of Evelina's world as...the way things are?
  • (oh dear--I seem to be doing a Rick Perry here and totally blanking on the third thing.  I'm serious.  I'll edit this if it comes to me but in the meantime feel free to help out in the responses to this post!)
  • AND, it wasn't written on the board, but...look at the footrace!  It's not that it's a hugely significant scene (it's not like the two climaxes we discussed on Tueday), but it is so magnificently strange that it's a good place to explore how Burney's world differs from our own.
We'll be talking about these issues in class tomorrow, so don't feel like you have to answer them definitively--or at all!  Feel free to take a stab at any of them if you're so inclined, but also feel free to respond by raising additional questions that you'd like to discuss.

Deadline: Thursday (11/10), start of class.


  1. In terms of the other novels we have read, I feel that Evelina is very differentiated in terms of didactic purpose. Although it is similar in style and genre to "Pamela", Evelina takes a much more romantic approach, and is much closer to the nineteenth century style of literature; what we see in Jane Austen novels, for example. I think that through "Evelina", Burney is critiquing the gender roles or status quo. He shows that virtuous characteristics go just as far in a male character as they do a female; many novels in the romantic genre tend to focus on the female's character.
    How do you think this novel differs from the novels that come about in the nineteenth century? Do you agree that "Evelina" takes didactic purpose and moral lessons to a new level, or is it on a level playing field with the other eighteenth century novels we have read?

  2. I agree that Evelina is different from the other novels we've read this semester. I think Dayna was right in identifying its didactic purpose as different from that of, say, Pamela. The two novels are very similar in structure, both epistolary and told from the perspective of a young girl experiencing love and challenge for the first time, but Pamela is much more aware of the role of letter-writing in the novel, whereas Evelina's writing is simply a character trait. Also, the conversation taking place between author and reader in Pamela is much more of a lecture than a discussion. Richardson argues, at times quite clearly, for the rewards of virtue, or the appearance of virtue; the his characters are not perfect, but those who at least attempt righteousness receive due reward. Burney on the other hand, only rewards the perfect characters. She gives her readers closure by redeeming Evelina in every possible way and then gives both Evelina and Lord Orville happy endings; the rest of the characters, however, are left to the reader's scrutiny.

  3. Being that this was posted late last night I didn't have a chance to get a look at it til now, but I'd like to expand just really quickly on the footrace thing...

    After we discussed it (the footrace) in class I had a brief bit of downtime in my next class and curiosity got the better of me, so I took to searching Google to see if races between people, particularly the elderly, were at all a common practice in Europe or anywhere else at the time of Evelina's publication, and I wasn't able to find ANYTHING to suggest that that was indeed the case.

    So, with that said, I feel like I can assert with more confidence now that this scene was very likely included to serve two purposes. First, to suggest that this "elite society" that Evelina had been entered into was not so perfect or well-mannered as it may have initially seemed from the outside (I mean...they're racing old people for their own drunken amusement, come on); and secondly as we briefly touched on class, to further affirm Orville's character as righteous and level-headed, as he took little to no enjoyment from watching the race unfold.

    Just something I wanted to throw out there.

  4. Comparing Pamela to Evelina, I think we are definitely seeing a change of the novel on a few different levels. The novel is more developed, and the characters have a more storied background. Evelina is more dynamic, focusing on several problems, rather than one. Also, the focus has changed as well. The book I read for my final paper discusses how, as the eighteenth century progressed, things like crossing social classes became less and less common. Due to colonization, the British became fearful that their way of life was changing, so they tried to reinforce British customs in literature. This could explain why Evelina starts out with a validation of her social ranking in life, and that she does not really cross social boundaries, while Pamela does.