Added: February 8, 2014 – Last updated: November 4, 2017


Author: Jolene Zigarovich

Title: Courting Death

Subtitle: Necrophilia in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa

In: Sex and Death in Eighteenth-Century Literature

Edited by: Jolene Zigarovich

Place: New York, NY, and London

Publisher: Routledge

Year: 2013

Pages: 76-102

Series: Routledge Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature 10

ISBN-13: 9780415640039 (hbk.) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780203082959 (ebk.) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

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


Link: Google Books (Limited Preview)


Author: Jolene Zigarovich, Department of Languages and Literatures, University of Northern Iowa

Abstract: »Chapter 3 is an updated version of "Courting Death: Necrophilia in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa." Arguing that the eighteenth century witnessed a shift in attitudes concerning sex, death, and the physical body, Jolene Zigarovich demonstrates the interworkings of the novel's sex-deathtrope, and uncovers the disturbing fact that Richardson created a novel of fetish. Instead of sex, death is coveted, embraced, and ultimateley eroticized in both Lovelace and Clarissa. Following a discussion of aesthetics, religion, and changing funeral rites, the chapter closely examines the role of preservation in the novel, and determines that the ideal female body is not only a dead one, but preserved, gazed at, and possessed by survivors. Zigarovich uniquely supports this preservation argument with medical textbooks, wills, and the "curiosity" fetish, which undeniably expose the culture's obsession with embalming and the cult of the beautiful, static, dead body. In addition to the incorporation of urns, heart burial, and other forms of preserved remains in eighteenth-century mortuary practice, the chapter finds that the frequent publication of medical books and treatises compounds the determination that embalming was consistently practiced and discussed. Borrowing from early Jacobean plotting, Richardson embeds within Clarissa what will later become consistent social paradigms: religious consolation is replaced with individual consolation, death has become secularized, and the marriage plot has been replaced by the grave plot. Richardson employs extensive measures–dreams, symbols, signs, suicide threats, rape, real deaths, and beautiful corpses–to complete the portrait of death obsession and macabre eroticization in Clarissa. By portraying the necrophilic tendencies of Lovelace, and Clarissa's participation in them, Richardson has created a tragic portrayal of the bodily disintegration that sexual deviation inspires. As the collection reveals, this necro-erotic aesthetic pervades eighteenth-century discourse, opening a subversive space for social challenge.« (Source: Jolene Zigarovich. »Introduction.« Sex and Death in Eighteenth-Century Literature. Edited by Jolene Zigarovich. New York 2013: 13)

Reprint of: Zigarovich, Jolene. »Courting Death: Necrophilia in Samuel Richardson's ClarissaStudies in the Novel 32 (2000): 112-128. – Bibliographic Entry: Info

Wikipedia: History of Europe: History of England | Literature: English literature | 18th-century English writers: Samuel Richardson / Clarissa