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Navigating interpretive authorities: women readers and reading models in the eighteenth century

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Navigating interpretive authorities: women readers and reading models in the eighteenth century
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Title
Women readers and reading models in the eighteenth century
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Steele
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Kathryn Lenore
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Kathryn Lenore Steele
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McDowell
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Paula
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Advisory Committee
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Paula J. McDowell
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chair
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McKeon
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Michael
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Advisory Committee
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Michael McKeon
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Kramnick
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Jonathan
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Advisory Committee
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Jonathan Brody Kramnick
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Bowers
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Toni
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Advisory Committee
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Toni Bowers
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outside member
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Rutgers University
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degree grantor
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Graduate School - New Brunswick
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theses
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2008
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2008-01
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English
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electronic
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vii, 227 pages
Abstract
Challenging existing notions of the oppositional reader, this dissertation proposes the model of limited interpretive authority as a new way of understanding reading practices in eighteenth-century England. It examines the women readers of Samuel Richardson's Clarissa as illustrations of this concept. Chapter 1, a literature review, suggests that even as methodologies become more flexible, the modern, individual, and secular reader continues to inform studies of historical reading. Arguing that the field requires a reading model describing more limited individual interpretive authority, this chapter turns to eighteenth-century instructions for reading the Bible. These texts employ a language of self-discipline and self-censorship that characterizes reading which negotiates, instead of rejecting, interpretive authority. Chapter 2 explores the historically problematic emphasis on oppositional reading in the study of women readers. A review of these methodological problems is followed by an examination of Hester Mulso Chapone's 1773 Letters on the Improvement of the Mind. This influential conduct book theorizes and recommends socially-embedded reading practices; in recuperating novelistic reading practices for the reading of the Bible, this text reflects a key change in reading practices. The chapter argues for extending the search for evidence of reading to the didactic texts usually believed to merely constrain readers.
The final two chapters examine the implied readers and historical readers of Samuel Richardson's 1747-48 novel Clarissa. Chapter 3 examines internal reading strategies. Clarissa's interpretive practice changes as she moves from acting in the social world to spiritual retreat. Silences in response to her family's coercion--representing a form of passive disobedience--are replaced by a refusal to narrate. This refusal signifies Clarissa's removal from the interpretive conflicts of the material world. Clarissa's self-transcendence invites us to imagine some readers' desire for similar self-transcendence. Using both published and archival letters, Chapter 4 tests and extends the models of reading proposed by the novel itself. Anna Howe, this chapter proposes, not Clarissa, provides the model of reading most often employed by readers. Reading like Anna Howe, or reading in a mode of filial disobedience, reveals a way to navigate, without necessarily rejecting, the interpretive dictates of patriarchy.
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
Note (type = bibliography)
Includes bibliographical references (p. 215-226).
Subject (ID = SUBJ1); (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Literatures in English
Subject (ID = SUBJ2); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Women--Books and reading--Great Britain--History-- 18th century
Subject (ID = SUBJ3); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Women and literature--Great Britain--History--18th century
Subject (ID = SUBJ4); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Authors and readers--Great Britain--History--18th century
Subject (ID = SUBJ5); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Richardson, Samuel, 1689-1761--Clarissa--Criticism and interpretation
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Graduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore19991600001
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http://hdl.rutgers.edu/1782.2/rucore10001600001.ETD.17221
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ETD_712
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/T3TQ61W4
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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Open
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Kathryn Steele
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Rutgers University. Graduate School - New Brunswick
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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