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HUMANITIES 215 pervasive anxiety during the period about the relation between clothing and status, about outward appearance and inner worth. Clothes were an important signifier of status, and thus tracts about the rebelliousness of servants, for example, frequently complained that their dress made them indistinguishable from their betters. Sodomy was an affront to Nature's order and thus the sodomite's clothing was yet another manifestation of his disordering capabilities. One of the chief difficulties of an approach such as Rowland's is that it groups together texts whose differences are sometimes as important as, or even more important than, their similarities. While it may be a useful organizational tool to lump together tracts which feature sodomy in order to discover the fundamental assumptions they share, one must at the same time remember that they do not constitute an autonomous body of literature any more than, say, a group of works in duodecirno constitutes a genre. While they seem to share a common subject to the twentieth-century writer, the eighteenth-century reader may well have thought of them as widely different. It is thus extremely dangerous to assume, as Rowland often does, that a common audience existed for alt and to base a number of critical judgments on this assumption. Rowland's effort is further hampered by his refusal to provide a clear expository overview of what are often confUSing narratives. Although he admits that many of his texts are difficult to come by, and thus (quite properly) allows himself the luxury ofextensive quotation, his discussions are often difficult to follow, even with the text at hand. (CRAIG PATTERSON) Christine Roulston. Virtue, Gender, and the Authentic Self in Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Richardson, Rousseau, and Lados University Press of Florida. xx, 232. us $49.95 Through her chronological study of four canonical eighteenth-century epistolary novels - Pamela, Clarissa, La nouvelle HeIoi'se, and Les liaisons dangereuses - Christine Roulston examines the concept of authenticity in English and French sentimental narratives. With the decline of aristocratic values, readers wereno longer content to assume that a character's elevated birth automatically guaranteed his or her worth. Richardson's Pamela is the type ofa new narrative subject. Marginalized with respect tobirth, position, and gender, Pamela wins the reader's respect and admiration through her personal virtue and inner worth. Roulston suggests that the new literary heroine has a compelling authenticity not despite her lowly social status, but precisely because of it: 'The subject who has been stripped of everything has nothing left but her interior self. This self, made present through ~riting, becomes a model of subjectivity that does not derend, in Michael McKeon's terms, on acorrespondence between IJ outward circumstance and inward essence.'" 216 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 Since the new protagonist's inward essence is revealed through her text, she generally seeks to abjure literary artifice so that her writing may become pure transparency and spontaneity. Roulston explores the paradoxes implicit in this project. The very word 'authentic' tries to encapsulate a presence precluded by the endlessly mediating structure of language. Other paradoxes are more specific to the form of the sentimental narrative. A woman's wish to discloseherself fully implies a process ofselfcensorship at odds with the goal of transparent writing. Julie in La nouvelle Heloise must monitor her inmost desires if she is to produce a text she can show both her husband and St Preux; in order to reveal the virtuous self, she must veil the desiring self. This paradox is further illuminated in Roulston's study of Les liaisons dangereuses, where she shows that 'the language of authenticity, focused as it is on the revelation of the feminine, is also a way of controlling feminine excess.' Madame de Merteuil's pockmarked face is a transparent text, but also a punitive one. Roulston also explores the issue of authenticity in relation to the reader. Richardson and Rousseau have the explicitgoal of creating heroines worthy of imitation; what to say, however, of the emotional authenticity of a woman who models herself on a literary creation? Again, Les liaisons dangereuses serves as an extreme case, for Madame de Merteuil learns to mimic the tender lover or the virtuous woman by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 215-216
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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