Title

Typography and conversational threat in Samuel Richardson's clarissa

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2019

Abstract

Copyright © 2019 by The Ohio State University. This essay examines how Samuel Richardson turned the technologies of print towards the acoustic to produce loud characters-both aurally and emotionally- in Clarissa. Specifically, it traces his techniques for representing the embodied features of argumentative conversation back to the performative genres of drama and music. Richardson's dual professional status as a printer and a novelist meant that he was familiar with the typographical conventions particular to various genres in print and, likewise, that he was invested in the graphic scaffolding of his own novels. As such, he used print as a creative resource, mining comedies and musical dynamics for models to notate interruptive pause, simultaneous speech, and changing vocal tone and cadence in the novel's heated arguments. He uses these techniques to craft an acoustic page with visual cues to help readers hear characters' words through their eyes, and thus to perceive the emotion motivating them. I argue that Richardson figures the twin specters of bodily violation and rape through the novel's threatening conversations and that his richest resources in doing so are notational techniques adapted from specifically embodied art forms. In delineating the architecture of dramatic and musical intonation that supports novelistic dialogue in Clarissa, this essay helps to revise critical narratives about the rise of the novel, emphasizing the residue of orality in this densely literary form and asserting the continuing presence of the spoken word and performative voice in the midst of a genre we tend to think of as having made characters private, quietly read, and interior.

Publication Name

Narrative

Volume Number

27

First Page

140

Last Page

159

Issue Number

2

DOI

10.1353/nar.2019.0009

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