Reflection

In approaching the second annotated bibliography, my initial thought was to seek articles or chapters dealing with the inset narratives in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria, or The Wrongs of Women. In particular, I was interested in Jemima, and the first source I found dealt with Jemima’s self-narration as it provides a potential commentary on prostitute biographies, a popular genre of the eighteenth century. As I continued to peruse the articles available, I noticed several titles making reference to theories of trauma and discussion of Wollstonecraft. The two that I chose deal specifically with narration and trauma, examining the ways that trauma both can and can’t be expressed through spoken narrative or writing.

I hadn’t considered the lens of trauma theory when I first explored the topic, and I’m still pondering how those considerations color ideas of the power of narration. My interest in form began with the first annotated bibliography, which focused specifically on Clarissa’s epistolary framework. One point that came up during class discussion of my annotated bibliography on Maria, however, was the potential for the ideas of trauma and narration to be examined in relation to Clarissa as well. Looking back on those earlier annotations, I recall Kvande’s connection between the epistolary form and the “female expressive self” (240). It’s interesting to consider the moments when Clarissa is able to put words to her trauma, and the moments where her ability to express herself fail. Maria is fragmentary in its form, which speaks in some ways to the nature of its heroine’s conflicts; Clarissa’s mental state in the aftermath of her rape by Lovelace is also represented through textual fragments. Trauma often seems to impede narrative in these texts, even as characters seek to use narrative—written or spoken—to articulate or to resolve trauma.

Both assignments provided an opportunity to investigate the minutia of the related works’ structures to a more significant extent. Schönfelder’s article, for example, noted that as many as twenty-five narratives of female experiences are articulated, to either a limited or deeper extent, as Maria develops. I enjoyed pursuing those threads for purposes of the annotations; I am interested in the way that those narrative details influence the work as a whole. I’m not certain how much bearing the lens of trauma theory will have on my work as I anticipate the final project. However, I hope that the discussions of narrative will in some way prove useful even if my project isn’t centered on Clarissa or Maria in particular.

As I mentioned in class, I am interested in developing a final project based on gaming treatment of, for lack of a better phrase, the “world of Jane Austen.” Thus far, I have done some reading about an online game called Ever, Jane and a card-based game called Good Society: A Jane Austen RPG. Both involve a multiplayer format, and dynamics and storylines are based in character/player interactions. For the project itself, I might explore how the narrative style that the gaming structure facilitates approximates the forms we have seen in the texts we have read this semester. The desire to engage with material in something like a game implies significant appreciation; I am also curious to consider what conclusions games like these might allow us to draw about the way contemporary audiences think about the world surrounding Austen.

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