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The Epistolary Novel

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January 19th, 2007


retrospection_
04:59 pm - An introduction and an ask for interview
Greetings all.

My name is Sarah and I'm a senior Lit major at the University of Pittsburgh. I first noticed this new trend in hypertext reading when the Dracula novel was featured on the LJ spotlight. I was immediately drawn to the unique style of this reading and the possible implications it has for the readers understanding and interaction with the text.

In fact, i wanted to explore the topic in a paper, but writing a paper for no reason is pretty dorky.

So I was thrilled to find that the topic for my senior thesis class this semester is The Book: From manuscript to hypertext. This topic relates DIRECTLY to what I'd like to explore.

In that vein, I'm interested in talking to people about their experiences with hypertext serialization of epistolary novels. If you were a participant in this sort of reading (or especially if you were a moderator who was actually POSTING these entries) I'd love to be able to pick your brain about the topic.

I don't have a formalized survey yet, but if you would be willing to be involved in my research (which shouldn't amount to more than a few emails) I'd love to hear from you at SMP34 at pitt dot edu.

Also, if there are more active communities in which I could plead for participants, please let me know.

Thanks. I'm very excited to be researching such a new development of textual interaction.

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July 28th, 2006


elettaria
09:04 pm - When the game of seduction is played by experts. And played to the death.
Choderlos de Laclos' Les Liaisons Dangereuses. In real-time. Join up and read along.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses is an epistolary novel, meaning that it's written as a series of letters. On this community, they'll be appearing on the day they're dated, starting with Cécile Volanges's first letter on the 1st of August. The novel finishes in December with a single letter later in January, so we've got about five months. Posts will be made by the characters in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, who each have their own LJ account, but everyone will be able to comment. The novel will be posted in the original French and discussed in English, though you're welcome to start threads in French as well.

For more information, go to lesliaisons1782. Brought to you by elettaria and angevin2, and inspired by dracula1897.

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May 19th, 2006


penguinkeggard
02:52 pm - Greetings
Hello all,

I'm new to the group and wanted to get in on the Clarissa reading, but it seems there are no posts? Is it not happening? Also, a small gift to you all, there is a great site for The Sorrows of Young Werther, where everyday you will get a letter from Young Werther.

http://www.the-sorrows-of-young-werther.com/

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

August 11th, 2005


elettaria
10:52 pm - Letter 9: "the Volanges bitch" on Valmont
But Valmont is not a man of that sort [a victim of impetuous passions]: his conduct is the outcome of his principles.

Is this libertine code written down anywhere, like all those manuals on courtly love in the middle ages? It appears to be fairly formalised, but it's not always clear what the rules are.

He knows exactly how far a man may carry villainy without danger to himself, and, so that he can be cruel and vicious with impunity, he chooses women for his victims.


Oh, so we do get to choose our sexual orientation?

She then proceeds to treat Mme de T as a child due to her sheltered life and innocence, and doesn't specify what Valmont has done wrong. A fatal mistake, I think, and certainly not one that would be wise with a rebellious daughter. Curiously, she gives the Marquise credit precisely because "she alone has been able to resist and even to master his wickedness". Presumably this means that the Marquise and Valmont managed to keep their affair relatively quiet. If Mme de V knows of it, then she is immediately revealing herself to be a hypocrite: shag whomever you like, dearie, as long as no one finds out.

(all from 1961 Penguin, p.38.)

ETA: er, that's "on the subject of Valmont", not physically on him. Though what do you make of that bit in the play and the film when he later tells Cecile that he slept with her mother many years ago? In the novel (L110) he just says that he amused himself by ascribing various scandals to her mother. You still don't know whether that means that her mother was as good as gold, or whether she got up to the odd bit of mischief, just not as much as Valmont claims at this point.

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August 9th, 2005


elettaria
11:39 pm - Letter 6: what does Valmont see in Mme de T?
1. She's ill-dressed: yes, but she'll be lovely naked.
2. She's sincere, modest, unable to dissemble, chaste, devout, and all the other things their set despises including loving her husband. No wonder the Marquise is gritting her teeth at this. Do you think he's putting it on to annoy her?
3. She lectures him and preaches at him. Each is trying to "convert" the other and enjoying it.

It's looking a lot like novelty value, although similar attributes fail to hold his attention with Cecile, perhaps because with Cecile they are more shallowly-rooted. He claims that he wants to destroy her modesty etc., but at the same time is finding happiness in it. She sounds like a nice enough woman, but you do wonder what is so enthralling. Perhaps it's just because it's sexual attraction to the last person you'd expect to inspire it? You'd think that any self-respecting rake would have cut his teeth on virtuous wives and would be bored stiff with them by now.

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August 7th, 2005


elettaria
11:54 pm - Letter 5: a jealous Marquise
It seems that there are two sorts of people in this society. Those who think that there's a point to marital fidelity, and those who think that it's a disgrace. Notice the way the Marquise attacks Mme de Tourvel because of her modesty in dress, which she immediately equates with frumpery.

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August 5th, 2005


sibelia
10:59 am - Translations of Liaisons
What translations does everybody have, and are they good or not? I have the Richard Aldington, Pocket Books, 1988, not a very literary edition I suppose.

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elettaria
05:26 pm - Letter 4: Valmont and love/desire/sex
What do you make of the way Valmont talks about love, desire and sex, in particular the vocabulary of war and of religion? Also the line, "It has become necessary for me to have this woman, so as to save myself from the ridicule of being in love with her: for to what lengths will a man not be driven by thwarted desire?" (1961 Penguin p.29), which in French is, "J'ai bien besoin d'avoir cette femme, pour me sauver du ridicule d'en être amoureux: car où ne mène pas un désir contrarié?"

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August 4th, 2005


elettaria
10:37 pm - Letters 2 and 3: mostly fangirling over the Marquise, I must admit
L2

Saith the Marquise:

"...and in the end it will be yet another rouerie to include in your memoirs - for one day I shall have your memoirs published, and I take it upon myself to write them."

People writing other people already. That's what we like to see.

"The hope of vengeance soothes my soul." (both 1961 Penguin, p.25)

How can you not adore this woman? As for the way she describes Gercourt's ludicrous insistance on marrying a convent-educated blonde, it's impossible not to agree that such a lofty ideal needs toppling and pronto, though it's hardly fair on the poor little Volanges. Not to mention the Marquise's lurking interest in Cecile, both in her description (there's a lovely line in the play version about, "Were my morals less strict, I'd take the job on myself,") and the whole business of setting the situation up, the befriending in the next letter when Cecile notices that she is under The Gaze and how other women respond (or not) to being looked at.

"With me, you will observe, love is not blind." (p.26)

Right. Absolutely. Of course, the Marquise's brutally clear sight is one of the things we love the most about her, but again that statement is just begging to be proven wrong sooner or later.

I can't quite believe that Cecile's only response in L3 to hearing a man saying "That one must be left to ripen" (p.27) is to wonder if he's her intended and to feel impatient. Damn it, girl, you should feel something other than excitement at being weighed up like a piece of fruit at market!

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

August 1st, 2005


kuzjavyj
08:50 pm - Short introduction
Sorry I didn't introduce myself earlier, I was not sure if I am going to post in the community, but I definitely want to read Dangerous Liaisons and discussions around it.

My LJ name is Kuzia, my real name is Luba, you may call me either one if the need arises. I grew up in Russia, then moved to Israel and finally ended up in US. I got BSc in Computer Science and work as a Software Engineer. I read a lot, but I never took any literature courses in college and have very little experience discussing books. Do forgive my mistakes, both stylistical and orthographical. I would really welcome your corrections. :)

I read Dangerous Liaisons in Russian couple of years ago, so I have a general understanding of what is going on there. I am still waiting for my English copy to arrive, meanwhile I resort to Russian translation.

Hope to have a wonderful time reading and discussing.

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elettaria
08:02 pm - Letter 1: Introducing Cecile
First of all, an admin thing. Is there anyone here who does not know the story of this novel, either from having read it or having seen the film? If so, what are your feelings about spoilers? It can be useful for people who know the entire text to refer to what happens later on, but most people hate having the plot spoilt. We're certainly going to encounter this problem with Clarissa, which far fewer people will have read already, although admittedly that has much less of a plot.

Anyway, if anyone wants us to be careful about spoilers (and don't feel bad about asking, I probably would had I not read this umpteen times), let us know and we can use cuts for posts, and warnings in the subject headers for comments. I'm going to err on the side of caution and do so for the time being.

If you're quoting, mention the letter if it's not the one under discussion, and preferably cite the page and edition (e.g. 1961 Penguin). Putting the letter number in the post subject header will be useful too.

Now for the actual novel. This is just on the first letter, we should discuss the preface as well. Cut for length, though the incredibly picky might see it as very mildly spoilerishCollapse )
Tags: ,

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July 18th, 2005


elettaria
10:08 pm - Date chart for Liaisons
Hi everyone, hope you'll all be with us for our reading of Liasions which starts in a couple of weeks. I've written a chart which shows which letter was written by whom and on what date, so that we know which letters to read when without having to flick ahead all the time. They're not arranged 100% in date order, though most of them are.

Date chartCollapse )

What do you think we should do about spoilers? Am I right in thinking that not everyone here has read the novel before? (ETA: or seen the film, by which I mean Dangerous Liaisons, not that Valmont nonsense or Cruel Intentions which Isn't The Same Thing.) Perhaps we should follow a rule such as putting asterisks in subject and comment headings as a warning? Avoiding spoilers altogether would be a pity, since those of us who do know the complete text will want to discuss the letters in the context of the whole.

Anyway, we have two weeks left for discussing Humphry Clinker *prods people*. I have to confess that I found it fairly dull myself (Liaisons is much more fun! Don't leave us!), but I'm sure I can think of something if I flick through it again. I've just been on holiday, which is my excuse for my absence so far this month.

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July 12th, 2005


anonymid
05:08 pm - mobs, masses, multitudes and the Bramble-Jery dynamic
Bramble and Jery differ sharply in their responses to and attitudes toward the masses and multitudes they encounter. A few passages and then some comments and questions:

Read more...Collapse )

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ptrw
04:03 pm - hello from rotterdam, the netherlands!
hi everybody,

just a short introduction. i love all sorts of stories, but lately i have really discovered 18th century literature. this is also because of a wonderful 18th century dutch author, isabelle de charrière, also known as belle van zuylen in the netherlands. i absolutely love les liaisons dangereuses, so i am looking forward to discussing it with all of you.

and no, i do not have a background in literature. i am a legal consultant to the state council, but stories are my passion.

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June 20th, 2005


sam_t
01:18 pm - Smollett's Women
Descending from Patristic mysogynists like Tertullian and St Augustine through Renaissance and Restoration literature ... the female monster populates the works of the satirists of the eighteenth century, a company of male artists whose virulent visions must have been particularly alarming to feminine readers in an age when women had just begun to "attempt the pen." These authors attacked literary women on two fronts. First, and most obviously, through the construction of cartoon figures like Sheridan's Mrs Malaprop and Fielding's Mrs Slipslop, and Smollett's Tabitha Bramble, they implied that language itself was almost literally alien to the female tongue. In the mouths of women, vocabulary loses meaning, sentences dissolve, literary messages are distorted or destroyed.
pp30-31, Gilbert and Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Imagination.

Any thoughts on the women in Humphry Clinker?

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June 17th, 2005


elettaria
01:50 pm - General Bibliography
I think anonymid recommended a general book on the eighteenth-century novel a while back; what was it? Does anyone else (hint hint, those of you who actually teach this period!) have recommendations for general reading, both books and articles (include online links for articles if possible)? If we put them all in the comments to this post, I can then put a link to it in the user info. We should also do the same for each text we cover, though it might be best to do them in separate posts.

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June 16th, 2005


elettaria
12:28 am - And the community is open for discussion!
What did you make of the title of Humphry Clinker? The "Expedition" is Bramble's. Like Dracula, the eponymous character never gets a narrative voice (OK, Drac gets to write four lines which are quoted in someone else's journal. Once), but you can hardly call Clinker the centre of the book the way Dracula is.

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June 8th, 2005


elettaria
01:18 am - Humphry Clinker
Hi everyone, just a reminder that we'll be starting to discuss The Expedition of Humphry Clinker in a week, so time to get reading if you've not started it yet (which means that I should get off my backside and past page 30). We won't be doing this one real time, we'll be doing it in the conventional fashion i.e. have the whole novel read before we start.

The plan after that is to read Dangerous Liaisons from August to December, and Clarissa next year from January to October, both in "real time".

How many people here have access to academic journals online? It might be fun to read and discuss the odd article together. I may not be after the end of this month as I'm on sick leave until Feb. Some of the databases present articles in PDF, but others present them in plain text, which can be copied and pasted; does anyone know if there would be copyright problems there?

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June 7th, 2005


sibelia
04:15 pm - Introduction
Hi, I'm a 19 year old undergraduate history student at UCLA and I found this community through 18th_c_writing. I am a great fan of Jane Austen and enjoyed Burney's Evelina very much, though I never managed to finish Cecilia. I just started Humphry Clinker and am enjoying it...also have my copies of Dangerous Liaisons and Clarissa ready. Hopefully I will succeed in reading them all! My question is, when do we begin discussing?

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June 1st, 2005


sam_t
05:58 pm - Another introduction
In contrast to everyone else so far, I'm not a student or at a university at all. I'm a software developer with an English Literature degree; I'm now sadly out of practice but I've discovered fairly recently that I miss critical reading and academic discussion. Looking at the interests and experience on the other introductions, I hope to learn a lot from this group.

My interest in the 18th century began during my degree. I chose the 18th century paper almost by accident - it was the only thing that fitted logically into that gap in my timetable and course requirements - and it wasn't something I thought I'd enjoy particularly. I'd expected it to be all Pope with a little Addison & Steele and a bit of Defoe if I was lucky. Thankfully, I was soon disabused of that notion by my highly enthusiastic tutor, who introduced us to a range of novels, plays, poetry and assorted other texts. I was hooked. Like anonymid, I'm interested by the rise of the print culture and also by the various author-reader relationships and the associated debates about the role of literature, although I'm still pretty ignorant.
Current Music: JS Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No 6

(Leave a comment)

May 28th, 2005


book_worm817
07:31 pm - an introduction
Good evening!

As asked, a short introduction on my part. I'm a 20+ year part-time student attempting to finally complete my undergrad in English Lit. I switched to English Lit from a business program after being challenged in a Heidegger class one semester. Once I had a taste of how college should be, I was hooked. I've been an english major ever since and am looking forward to completing my undergrad and going on for my grad work.

I've never worked in a reading group like this and am looking forward to gaining a deeper understanding working with the group.

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elettaria
09:57 pm - I did suggest intros, after all
I'm a "resting" student, which means that after over 8 years of pootling through an undergrad at very slow speed at Edinburgh (I developed ME/CFIDS in my first year and have had quite the saga of time off and part-time study), I eventually became too ill to continue. I'm having a year off before (hopefully) doing a postgrad with Open University, a taught Masters to be precise, which includes the option of focusing on eighteenth century lit. So I'm generally well-read in literature, my theory's shaky, and my history is non-existent. My eighteenth-century shelves are rather pathetic at the moment, only a couple of dozen books, but I think I'm starting a craze for the period. This coincides quite nicely with my recent devotion to baroque music (no, I don't have a spinet, but I do have a lovely Bluthner piano). I've adored Liaisons for years and intend to get all the way through in French this time. Clarissa I've just read for the second time, and this time I was absolutely intrigued, mostly by the sexual politics. I've not read a word of Smollett yet, but I do like his name, it's one you can say in a lip-smacking sort of way. Or possibly it just reminds me of that filthy joke about the mullet in Juvenal.

(Leave a comment)

elfbystarlight
12:38 am - Basic Intro Post
Hiya,

I'm just finishing my first year of an English degree at Exeter (in England) and I know almost nothing about the era in question here - my chosen modules for next year are early modern and Chaucer based - which is why I'm here, to learn new things. Also, elettaria made it sound like fun to read like this, and I've never done it before. Looking forward to it!

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May 27th, 2005


elettaria
11:00 pm - Confession time
I know very little about eighteenth-century lit. I'm one of the mods purely because I heard about a group of academics who did a real-time reading of Clarissa, thought "what a good idea", and as anonymid had been planning to set up a reading group for 18th_c_writing anyway, we finally got our act together. So suggestions from those more learned than myself are most welcome! I'd be interested to see a list of all the epistolary novels from the long eighteenth century that people know of, and we'll update the interests list accordingly. This is only meant to be a reading group for specific books, 18th_c_writing is the place for other discussions, but a few brief chats about the genre and period in general before we get started on Humphry Clinker couldn't hurt.

(Leave a comment)

zugenia
11:45 am - Hi, and thank you!
Thanks for setting up this reading group. I think the "real-time" reading is a delightful idea.

By way of introduction: I'm finishing up my PhD in English at Brown, and will teach 18th-c British literature (and one Asian American lit course) at Haverford College next year. My dissertation is on the figures of China and Chinese things in British writing from the Restoration through Romanticism. I'm teaching a seminar in the fall on Humor and Humiliation in the Long 18th Century. Humphry Clinker very nearly ended up on the syllabus, but I had to cut it so I could fit in The Female Quixote.

I'm looking forward to reading with all of you!

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