Kelly’s Annotated Bib

REEVES, JAMES BRYANT. “Posthumous Presence in Richardson’s ‘Clarissa.’” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. 53, no. 3, 2013, pp. 601–621.,

Reeves’ article argues against the mainstream criticisms which state Clarissa’s voice, after death, is silenced forever, and she remains unheard as she was when she was alive. Instead, through her letters and the will, Clarissa not only maintains agency but also an agenda to reform the secular world while deceased. Moreover, Reeves has a different stance on Richardson’s eschatology and idea of providence. He contradicts the opinion many scholars share regarding Richardson’s material world, that of the spiritual, and how they never overlap. While recognizing that the spiritual realm is superior to the material, Reeves asserts the material world is still contained within the divine, and the purpose of the spiritual is to redeem and reform its counter, not to abandon it. Thus, Clarissa, described as angelic throughout the novel, embodies the mixing of both the corporeal and divine; once she dies, her documents disrupt the linear timeline of the earlier parts of the novel, forcing the reader to reevaluate the meaning of time, and gives way to the eternal.

NAZAR, HINA. “JUDGING CLARISSA’S HEART.” ELH, vol. 79, no. 1, 2012, pp. 85–109.,

Nazar’s article approaches Clarissa as a novel which questions traditional morality. Primarily focusing on Clarissa’s two sources of morality, her heart and Anna, her best friend, Nazar examines the ways in which the inner and outer voices aid in Clarissa’s understanding of what is right. The heart, or her conscious, is god-given and allows her enough autonomy to disobey her family under the claim of spiritual obedience. Yet, at the same time, her heart judges freely without any participation from Clarissa’s mind, and, as Nazar points out, Clarissa is often skeptical of her initial judgements. Thus, employing Anna as her mirror, Clarissa engages in reflective judgement, a relative morality based on accordance with others and which grants its own validity. This social engagement, Nazar comments, is perpetuated in the epistolary form, as letters are a social space, unlike a diary. Again, the duality of secular and divine issues exist within Clarissa, and, with her refusal to adhere ultimately to Anna’s suggestions to marry Lovelace, she ultimately rejects the new morality constructed on social participation. Ending on a quote by Kant, Nazar explains how the social morality everyone seems to be pushing onto Clarissa is self-fulfilling and nothing more.

While Nazar’s article is not exactly in the same vein as Reeves’, the choice Clarissa makes to follow her heart rather than the thoughts of others is an act of her transcending the secular. But, most importantly, it links the spiritual with the material world and offers the latter up for scrutiny and, possibly, reform.


One thought on “Kelly’s Annotated Bib”

  1. Thanks, Kelly. These two pieces take up the Christian and spiritual dimensions of Clarissa as character, and raises the question of how we as readers should respond to it: is it a spiritual quest undertaken by an impossible exemplary character? Or a more didactic and secular story of prudential imitation? Which portions or features of the novel support which reading, because clearly both are possible. And is it possible that the spiritual dimension of the Clarissa story invites us to reinterpret the material story? That seems to be the point of the Reeves “disruptive” reading. As always, I think Anna is very important to these alternative readings, because I think her function is to mediate between the realms that Clarissa finds too difficult to reconcile. So where might Anna, Belford, or even Lovelace fit into these “spiritual” readings?


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