Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. 7-10

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 11-14

I am grateful to those who have given me their advice, encouragement, and friendship while I have been working on this book. My greatest debt-much larger than a single note can acknowledge-is to Paul Alkon, who has overseen this project since its beginning. His support has been unfailing, his enthusiasm sustaining, his commentary invaluable. Madelon...

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Introduction

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pp. 15-31

One might imagine the present book as gloss for a single line of Clarissa. "I am but a cypher, to give him signifi­cance, and myself pain." The words are Clarissa's, written at Sinclair's, in the midst of her evil time. And "he" of course is Lovelace-jailer, bogey, courtier-fixer of that intimate, brutal anguish she is made to suffer. Clarissa leaves her remark...

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1. Clarissa by Halves

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pp. 32-37

Even in death Clarissa Harlowe is broken in upon, ravaged-her story cut in half. Into the midst of Belford's reverent account of her posthumous affairs, a gross and deliri­ous scenario intrudes-the bloated, kitschy death of her former tormentor, Mrs. Sinclair. The scene of the infamous "Mother's" demise, one of Richardson's more timid Gothic...

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2. Discovering Reading

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pp. 38-46

The problem of "Story" is always at hand in Clarissa. What-where-is Clarissa's "Story"-the one Anna Howe, in her first letter to the heroine, "longs to hear"? Again, entering Richardson's lurching, exhausting text, with its mysterious lesions and effusions, its layerings of deceit and disclosure, one is never sure. Is it that "strange melancholy accident" to...

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3. Reading the Letter, Reading the World

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pp. 47-56

To speak of the image of reading dramatized inside Richardson's novel is to speak from the start of a process more complicated and far-reaching than the word "reading" usually connotes. I have been using "reading" interchangeably with "exegesis" and "interpretation"-to suggest an activity: read­ing as a kind of work, or operation. Clarissa enforces such an...

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4. Interrupting "Miss Clary"

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pp. 57-80

Clarissa Harlowe's "harrowing tale" turns upon a con­frontation with the arbitrariness of signs, with the failure of things to yield meaning, simply, absolutely. Her catastrophe is a catastrophe of reading. She does not understand either the complexity or the compromised nature of the process. And hence she is a victim-of her own reading, and the readings of...

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5. Denatured Signs

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pp. 81-107

In the beginning Clarissa is drawn to Lovelace because he lets her speak. He offers her a correspondence, and out of her great and desperate desire-for discourse itself-she falls into it with him. For his part, the strategy is one of slow entrapment. He plays precisely, masterfully, on her desire for language, on her tremendous will toward signification. He...

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6. The Voyage Out

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pp. 108-135

The despicable, endlessly idiotic, endlessly suggestive act upon which histoire in Clarissa turns-the rape of the heroine-is deeply tied in to the hermeneutic theme. Sexual violation, the "black transaction" at the heart of the fiction, is at once the consequence and emblem of Clarissa's tragic mis­readings, and of all the "constructions" with which she has...

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7. The Death of the Author: Clarissa's Coffin

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pp. 136-147

In death, escape is final. Given the distended internal drama of interpretation-the welter of readings and mis­readings, of meanings formed and suspended and deformed-Clarissa's death scene has its alternately poignant and black-humorish resonances. Death confirms (pathetically? ironically?) Clarissa's loss of utterance; it is the ultimate form of interruption. Throughout Belford's description of the...

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8. The Death of the Author: Richardson and the Reader

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pp. 148-180

There is another dead author, of course. Samuel Richardson has left behind his own coffin-text, his own intri­cate fantasia and challenge to readers-the text of Clarissa it­self. Like his heroine, he is absent from us, concealed behind the dense, ornate surface of his fiction, silenced by a continu­ous gabble of imaginary voices, among which that of the...

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9. Epilogue: The Reader Lives

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pp. 181-188

The reader of Clarissa is free then-free of Nature, free of an "author." But what do we choose to do with our freedom? To what end this realization of readerly authority?
The fiction itself seems at first to hold out two possibilities, both of them tragic. In the process of confronting the text, we discover, like the heroine herself, that it is the activity of...

Bibliographic Postscript

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pp. 189-196

Index

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pp. 197-205