Wollstonecraft, Wrongs of Woman + Johnson, Equivocal Beings

This week, along with the Wollstonecraft Wrongs of Woman, I’d like you to read the Introduction and Chs. 1 and 2 (Wollstonecraft) portions of Claudia Johnson’s Equivocal Beings, which is available online through the library catalog. 

Please collect a few passages from both MW and the Johnson, and be prepared to talk about how “sentimentality” affects the “literary,” “realism,” and “politics” questions we’ve pursued this term in other authors. Post your best passage or question below in the comments.

Bonus question: how many different ways are female novelists and audiences caught up in the question of cultural transmission? How do those get figured by MW and her contemporaries?

Have a great weekend,



[Missing: Valentine, Shepherd, McCafferty, Maillet, Robinson]



This week for Evelina I’d like each of you to post in the comments a passage and a question that shows, in one way or another, the characteristic differences between Burney and Richardson, even as they both write epistolary, sentimental fiction centered around a heroine’s plight. So in terms of characterization, plot, setting, dialogue, etc.

Each of you will be swapping and answering each others’ questions in class (not your own).

See you Thursday,


Missing (10am): McCafferty, Valentine, Shepherd, Maillet

Clarissa, Week 5 & Final Week (883-1499)

Happy New Year, everyone!

Here’s your reading journal assignment for this week:

Q: While you are reading the final installment (pp. 411-883), choose an important turning-point in the novel’s plot: it could be an action, an event, a disclosure of an important bit of news, or even an important realization by one of the characters. To some extent, this choice helps us decide which of the numerous stories told in this novel is the core narrative.

Think about the significance of this turning-point for the novel as a whole, collect passages and arguments in your journal, and be prepared to write about this turning-point for about 10 minutes at the beginning of class.

As you consider this episode and its significance, ask yourself this question: how does Richardson’s epistolary form influence the way he narrates this very extended “story”?

I’ll be posting materials related to the literariness and realism questions that arose last week.

See you soon,





CLASS CANCELLED, 9-19: Make up assignments on blog; UPDATED

Hi folks,

The weather has turned ugly this morning and I’m seeing flash flood alerts. We will therefore cancel today’s meeting and resume next week to finish the book (883-1499).

To make up for the lost meeting and to keep us on track, I expect all those who haven’t yet posted for this week to put up those posts by tomorrow.

I will also assign two one blog post for next week, one writing-oriented and one research-oriented, which I expect you to post by Wednesday evening. 

These posts will be graded together as part of the annotated bib assignment for Segment I.

Please make sure you’re up to date with your posts, and check the blog for those upcoming assignments.

I’m also notifying people of this through emails and text messages.

Please stay safe,




Clarissa, Week 3 (410-883): Abduction to Rape

Excellent work, everyone.  As we approach the next 400 pages of Clarissa this week, I’m going to focus the assignment squarely on the thematic clusters.

This week, while you are reading, please pick one of the thematic clusters:

A.  Love, Sexuality, Property

B.  Class, Rank, Legitimacy

C.  Morality, Sensibility, Indifference

D.  Happiness and/or Pleasure

While you are reading, trace this particular cluster across the next 400 pages, so that you’ve developed a small group of passages that you can comment upon in your reflection for this segment.  You don’t need to quote extensively from the passages, but do list the letter/page numbers so that others can retrieve them.  Reflections should be about a paragraph or so.  Thanks, and good luck.


(Still Missing: Maillet, Robinson)

Clarissa, Week 2 (148-410): Arguments & Abduction

As promised, I’m posting a link here to Sade’s Essay on the Novel, which should help you see the connections between the morally polarized readings of Clarissa that came from Richardson’s feminist and anti-feminist readers and imitators. I’m also including two pioneering female critics (Van Ghent and Doody) to give you a sense of Richardson’s form and generic positioning.

For your reading journals this week, I’d like you to keep tabs on your experiences of the unfolding plot, your sense of the characters and their physical environment while you write. This coming week we’ll be sharing some portion of your journals with one another, so be sure to decide which portions you’d like to share. I also ask for you to keep a running tab of passages you’d like to discuss. In these journals, you are free to incorporate or ignore insights or passages from Sade, Van Ghent, or Doody, and to explicitly address questions such as:

  • morality, sensibility, pleasure, pain, indifference
  • visuality, transparency, the gaze
  • power, conflict, tragedy

Let me know if you run into any problems. Otherwise, I’ll see you this Thursday.

Take care,


Clarissa, Week 1 (Preface, Letters 1-31, pp. 1-148): UPDATED

Hi folks,

Thanks for a great seminar on Thursday. As I mentioned in class, we’ll begin slowly with Clarissa and then speed up as we go along.

In class Thursday, we’ll read as a group the Preface, including the Principal Characters (35-8), then the first 31 letters, and conclude with the first letter of Lovelace to Belford (142-8).

For your first blog comment, I’d like you to mine your reading journals to talk about the transition from amatory fiction (Bowers) to a more circumstantial realist presentation (Watt) in SR. You might also want to think about the extent that SR might want us to recognize Clarissa’s characterization as potentially offering a ““reform’d coquet” (Spencer) style narrative (with other characters perceiving her this way) and then showing this reading of her to be wrong.

Hit the comment button on the left hand column (or the “leave a reply” box) and discuss what you noticed in the transition in a paragraph or so, along with some textual evidence taken from the texts you discuss. You are free to use the Bowers, Watt, or Spencer selections, or not, in your responses below.

Good luck,


UPDATE: Please have these posted by Wednesday evening, so we can all read and review them before classtime. Thanks, DM


Assignment for 8/29: Davys Reading etc

1. Hi folks, here’s the reading assignment for next week, with the same link that I provided in the email, Mary Davys’s Reform’d Coquet:


2. To give you an idea of the theoretical agenda of the class, take a look at Suzanne Conklin Akbari’s “Introduction” to this open access volume, which we’ll be using and referring to throughout the semester. For now, I’d urge you to poke around the Akbari/Heller volume to see if anything interests.


3. I’ll post some more explicit guidelines for the reading journals tomorrow, but just try to put your in-class/outside of class journal entries into a single, dated, scrollable document or notebook. Individual entries should have a date and heading.

The Akbari/Heller volume has a variety of examples where the writers describe their own process of reading, the conditions that influenced their process, and how it affected their understandings of what they read. The examples are there to encourage you to find your own way of describing your process.

4. Finally, I’m including my own notes from the board from Thursday, to suggest a few points.


Thursday’s examples showed some of the different speeds and intensities of our modes of uptake, but they also revealed how our intellectual formation helps us cultivate new forms of reading along with new things to read. There is “early reading” and “school reading” and “fun reading” and “theory reading,” all of which seem distinct though not exactly separable from one another.

5. If you’d like to use a prompt for the reading journal, you could consider the relation between Haywood and Davys’s fiction and stage comedies (both were playwrights as well as fiction writers).  You could also consider why reading, and indeed any exercise of the female imagination, is treated as risky, even in imaginative fictions written by women.

Watch for more posts as we proceed, follow as well as subscribe to the blog, and let me know if you run into any problems.