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ENL 6236 Beauty and Violence in the Enlightenment

    Class 6: Clarissa: Beauty and Rakes


      Clarissa, pp. 450-600
      excerpt from Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry Into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful in Course Docs.
      DUE: Post #5; Clarissa reading journal;
      Scholarship Presentation: Caitlin Fahey -- McGirr, Elaine. "Why Lovelace Must Die." Novel, 37:1 (2003), 5-23. Available on LION.

    Class Objectives:

    • To discuss Clarissa's move to Mrs. Sinclair's house in London
    • To discuss ideas of beauty and the female sex via Burke
    • To discuss libertines and the rake's code
    • To analyze the article presented by Ms. Fahey

    Notes and Discussion Questions:

    1. Clarissa - through Letter 187

    This section of the novel concerns Clarissa's relocation to Mrs. Sinclair's house in London, the Harlowe's disowning Clarissa, Lovelace reading Clarissa's letters and a consideration of Lovelace's marriage proposals. We have two new important voices added to the correspondence: Belford's to Lovelace and the long awaited notice of Morden. This section devotes much attention to rakes and their behaviors.

    What type of place does Clarissa find herself when she relocates to Mrs. Sinclair's house? What are the implications?

    In letter 140 Lovelace provides his rules of amours and in Letter 143 Belford writes of the "rake's code." In Letter 161 Clarissa analyzes Lovelace's group of compatriots as rakes and Colonel Morden advises Clarissa on libertines (563-4). In what sense are men like Lovelace ruled by a code? How does Clarissa's punctilio compare as a codified set of expectations?

    Evaluate Belford's advice to Lovelace: "Be honest to her then, in her sense of the word" (503).

    Apropos of the McGirr article, contrast the writing styles of Lovelace and Clarissa. How does each use language? Is it literal or literary? What does it suggest about character?

    What are the implications of Lovelace's stealing Clarissa's letters, in an epistolary novel?

    2. Burke, "On Beauty"

    Burke's treatise attempts to describe what an individual apprehends when he (or she?) recognizes beauty. In what sense is the an "Enlightenment" text? Why?

    It is important for Burke's ideas that people agree on what is beautiful. How does he validate his claims for this universal agreement?

    To what extent are Burke's observations restricted to a male viewer? What role do women play in this examination of beauty?

    Lovelace extols Clarissa's beauty both in physical terms and quasi-spiritual terms. How might we understand the connection in light of Burke's description of our ideas of the beautiful. Why does he vaciliate in his attraction for the angel and the woman? How are they different?

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