Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG445H1F L0401

ENG445H1F    L0401    F1-3
Advanced Studies Group 5: Richardson's Clarissa
Instructor: Simon DIckie

Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 920
Email: simon.dickie@utoronto.ca

Brief Description of Course: A rare opportunity to read, at a manageable pace, one of the longest and most extraordinary novels ever written. Composed entirely in letters, Richardson’s Clarissa tells the almost unbearable story of a young woman who is abducted and then raped by a treacherous libertine, a violation that throws her into a long and eventually fatal illness. We will read the text in 11 installments over the course of the semester and consider a number of important literary and cultural contexts: epistolarity as a literary mode; eighteenth-century sentimentalism; women’s amatory fiction; libertine literature and rake biography; conduct books and devotional texts; the early-modern treatment of rape; representations of madness and the emergence of “hysteria”—and so on. We will also explore, in detail, the heated critical controversy that has surrounded this text since its publication in 1747-8. We will review a range of contemporary reactions to Clarissa and a selection of the voluminous modern criticism it has stimulated (feminist, Marxist, psychoanalytic, deconstructionist, reader-response).

PLEASE NOTE: Students are advised to begin the novel before classes start. Once the course begins, everyone must keep up with the reading. Some familiarity with eighteenth-century literature is strongly recommended (for example, students who have taken ENG322Y, “Fiction Before 1832,” will be well prepared for this course).   

Required Reading: Richardson, Clarissa, ed. Angus Ross (Penguin), available from the Bob Miller Book Room. Further readings will be uploaded on Blackboard.

Method of Evaluation: Close-reading exercise (3-4 pages, 750-1000 words) (20%); Three responses/questions to the day’s reading (200 words each) posted on Blackboard’s discussion page by 9 a.m on your assigned day. I will write the first one or two as an example. Please be prepared to discuss your post in class. (20%); Final paper (8-10 pages, 2000-2500 words) (45%); Active and informed participation, including follow-on discussions of your Blackboard posts (15%).


Link to ARTSCI Calendar Course Descriptions.

Link to ARTSCI 2016-17 Timetable with Room Allocations.

Return to 400 Level Courses.

Return to 2016-17 Fall-Winter Courses.


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