Added: August 31, 2013 – Last updated: December 2, 2017


Author: Ann K. Wagner

Title: Sexual Assault in the Shadow of the Law

Subtitle: Character and Proof in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa

Journal: Law & Literature

Volume: 25

Issue: 2

Year: Summer 2013 (Published online: December 19, 2013)

Pages: 311-326

ISSN: 1535-685X – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1541-2601 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 18th Century | European History: English History | Cases: Offenders / Robert Lovelace; Cases: Victims / Clarissa Harlowe; Representations: Literary Texts / Samuel Richardson



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Abstract: »Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa has often been read as a rejection of law in favor of morality, thanks to Clarissa’s decision not to bring her rapist Lovelace to court and the heavy religious symbolism that pervades the novel’s final volume. The author critiques this reading as ahistorical while observing that it also tends to alienate the modern reader. The article suggests an alternative reading, rooted in the historical legal context that informs Clarissa’s decision, including eighteenth-century evidence law and pre-modern forms of legal proof. The article further shows that law and its instruments are essential to the public vindication that Clarissa finds in the closing pages of the novel. It has become too easy to assume that Richardson rejects the utility of law just because his heroine refuses one form of legal process. A closer examination of the role that law plays in Clarissa demonstrates that Richardson reveres an idealized form of law even as he questions contemporary legal practices.« (Source: Law & Literature)

Lecture: Wagner, Ann K. »Sexual Assault in the Shadow of the Law: Character and Proof in Samuel Richardson's ClarissaGender, Law, and the British Novel. Chicago 2010. – Bibliographic Entry: Info

Wikipedia: History of Europe: History of England / Georgian era | Literature: English literature / Augustan literature | 18th-century English writers: Samuel Richardson / Clarissa | Rape in fiction