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The Rape of Clarissa

Writing, Sexuality, and Class Struggle in Samuel Richardson

1982
Author:

Terry Eagleton

The Rape of Clarissa

Combines Marxist, feminist, and post-structuralist ideas to show how Richardson’s writing anticipated many of the sexual and political concerns of our time.

Combines Marxist, feminist, and post-structuralist ideas to show how Richardson’s writing anticipated many of the sexual and political concerns of our time.

Samuel Richardson is probably the most neglected of the great English novelists. Generations of students and critics have found his works not only unendurably long, but priggish, preachy and pornographic to boot.

In this remarkable and arresting study, Terry Eagleton seeks to reclaim Richardson for our own time, as one of the most pioneering and revolutionary authors of English literature. He shows how the concern of Clarissa with the oppression of women graphically prefigures the feminism of today. Using a combination of Marxist, post-structuralist and psychoanalytic approaches, Eagleton examines Richardson’s obsession with the act of writing, his role as an aggressive spokesman for the middle class and his unparalleled insights into sexual politics.

This is a book which may alarm and outrage many traditional eighteenth century specialists. But it will bring many to read Richardson for the first time—and indeed, by the manifold hints it throws out, to read a good deal more eighteenth-century fiction, in startlingly new ways.

The Rape of Clarissa

Terry Eagleton is a fellow and tutor in English at Wadham College, Oxford. His books include Walter Benjamin, Criticism and Ideology, Marxism ad Literary Criticism, Literary Theory (Minnesota, 1983), and The Function of Criticism.

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