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ENL 6236 Beauty and Violence in the Enlightenment

    Class 15: The Vicar of Wakefield


      Vicar of Wakefield
      Presentations: Kelly Lavis - "COURTING DEATH: NECROPHILIA IN SAMUEL RICHARDSON'S CLARISSA" by ZIGAROVICH, JOLENE, Studies in the Novel (Summer 2000): 112-.
      Nicole Stodard: "Colonizing the Breast: Sexuality and Maternity in Eighteenth-Century" by Ruth Perry. Journal of the History of Sexuality Vol. 2, no. 2, 1991.
      "Maternal Nursing and Oral Aggression in Richardson's England." John Allen Stevenson's response to Raymond F. Hilliard's PMLA article (which Quentin presented) *This is only 3 pages long.*

      DUE: Post #14

    Class Objectives:

    • To discuss marriage, patriarchs and the fallen woman in The Vicar of Wakefield
    • To conclude our discussion of beauty and violence in the Enlightenment
    • To conduct course evaluations
    • To discuss articles presented by Ms. Lavis and Ms. Stodard

    Notes and Discussion Questions:

    1. The Vicar of Wakefield

    With this short but important eighteenth-century comic novel of sentiment, we conclude our investigation of beauty and violence in the Enlightenment.


    As a comic novel of sentiment, the novel contrasts strongly with the tragic novel of sentiment, Clarissa. In what ways does the novel share the sentimental view of human nature? What strategies does the novel use to avoid pathos and emphasize the comic? Are sentimentality and comedy amenable modes of narration?

    The novel employs a very digressive style. Compare this with the other novels we have read. Also consider the artfulness of the simple structure in the novel. In particular discuss the strategic use of poems.

    What does the extreme popularity of the novel suggest to you?

    Marriage and the Family Plot

    How does the novel represent marriage? what models of marriage and family order does it recommend?

    Evaluate the character of the vicar as a patriarch. Compare him with other fictional fathers and/or male guardians in the works we have read.

    Ned Thornhill is the novel's rake figure -- how does the Olivia / Ned plot take up the Clarissa plot? How is it different? Implications?

    What role does Sir William Thornhill play in the novel? How does he choose a wife and what might this suggest about proper marriage in the novel? What makes a good husband?

    Evaluate the poem: "When Lovely Woman Stoops to Folly" as a commentary on fallen women (ch. xxiv).

    Do you see any cnocern with male violence in this novel? How is it different from earlier representations and why?

    What is female beauty in the novel? What role does it play and how is it different from earlier articulations?

    Based on your readings, offer an assessment of the representations of civility and/or issues of the Enlightenment in mid-century fictional texts. What questions remain for you?

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