Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Matthew Garrett

Major

English

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

In my close reading of the novel, I attempt to demonstrate a form of reading with rather than for Clarissa’s desire. To read with Clarissa is not to interpret as she interprets, but rather to read next to her as she interprets. “Reading with,” means to read the novel as Clarissa moves through it and to take this occasion to read social relations as they appear allegorical and specifically within the text. To read with means to read the novel allegorically, as rape and not seduction, because solidarity with Clarissa as a rape survivor is politically important. Furthermore, it means to recognize the characters as psychologically complex characters who, in their specificity, support, break down, and have no relation to an allegorical reading of the text at different moments across the narrative. Clarissa is an allegorical character and she is specific. However, her specificity does not mean the end to the allegory; these terms are not mutually exclusive. To read with Clarissa also means to read against rape as the structuring event of the novel. In my second chapter, the “act” of rape is not an isolatable event it is a “state of being” that creates a new relationship between the victim of rape and her body. By destabilizing rape as a concrete “event,” I destabilize the strict movement of corruption between moral and immoral standards of behavior. Clarissa is an angel who falls and maintains her angelic virtue. Furthermore, as a state of being, the catastrophic embodied consequences of rape become clear. In this sense, to read with Clarissa is to focus on the consequences of rape as the main subject of the novel. While the seduction plot considers consent or resistant to be unambiguous, the state of being generated by rape throws consent into ambiguity. In the “state of being” produced by rape, a space is opened in which the victim of rape can have desire, no desire, and complicit desire simultaneously. The problem with the structure of the feminine “response” to rape is that it reads across time, and rejects contradiction. To “read with” Clarissa is to read against a strict binary of consent or resistance, desire or never desire. Reading with lets one moment signify in that moment only, not across the time of the narrative.

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