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ENL 6236 Beauty and Violence in the Enlightenment

    Class 3: Clarissa: Male violence, consanguineal family


      Clarissa, pp. 1-150 (also introduction)
      Tatler essay on dueling (course docs);
      selection from Perry's Novel Relations (course docs)

      Due: Post #2; Clarissa reading journal

    Class Objectives:

    • To begin Clarissa
    • To discuss reformation of male character/gender construction
    • To analyze family structures, eighteenth-century economic patterns and marriage choice

    Notes and Discussion Questions:

    1. Clarissa - through Letter 32

    The opening correspondence in the novel takes place between two young, unmarried women who are the best of friends: Clarissa Harlowe and Anna Howe. What are the dominant traits of these characters? How does their writing reflect this?

    Discuss the role of the duel in this novel. Why do James Harlowe jr. and Robert Lovelace fight? What role does Clarissa play in this? How might this translate into an understanding of the relationship between beauty and violence in their world?

    Why is the marriage of Clarissa so important?

    After reading Perry's excerpt on the consanguineal family in Clarissa discuss the motivations and implications of the family's decision to marry Clary to Solmes.

    As you read, identify key words in the text that merit the scrutiny of the letter readers and writers. What words do they argue over? Why?

    For example, the word "polite" and "politeness" seems to have different meanings in different contexts. Why is Clarissa surprised that Lovelace lacks politeness? What does she mean by this criticism?

    The word "duty" also creates textual dilemmas. Examine how different members of the family use the word with Clarissa. What is Clarissa's duty?

    What does Clarissa mean by a "friend"? What is the difference between family and friends and why does she refuse to call her family her friends anymore?

    Why does Clarissa take such pains to remain respectful of her family and its reputation? Why doesn't Anna? Is Clarissa justly offended by Anna's treatment of the Harlowe's in her letters?

    Why doesn't Clarissa take her inheritance and live independently?

    We hear about Lovelace from the beginning of the novel, but we don't get to read his letters until page 142. What is the effect of this beginning?

    What do you anticipate to be the main issues of masculine behavior at issue in the novel?

    2. Tatler on Dueling, and Perry on the consangunineal family

    Why does the writer of the essay on dueling fear he will be unsuccessful in converting the practice of dueling?

    Why do men duel? What role does fear play in the male characters described in the essay?

    How does the Harlowe family exemplify the eighteenth-century trend toward family aggrandizement?

    In what sense is Clarissa a sacrifice to the family?

    In Perry's terms, Clarissa serves as an eighteenth-century "everywoman." How? What is the economic morality play being staged in this book?

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