Pamela: The Book as a Visual and Physical Experience

Karen Spilker

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Pamela: The Book as a Visual and Physical Experience
This thesis re-examines the dynamic and multifaceted reception of Pamela, with particular focus on how the physical qualities and appearance of specific copies and editions shaped readers’ responses. By combining narrative analysis with a discussion of the book as a physical object and an examination of the many visual representations of Pamela, this thesis proposes a new, interdisciplinary model for understanding how eighteenth-century novels were treated and received by their readers, and how the works, in turn, influenced reading and printing practices. Beginning with an exploration of how the narrative confusion and identity crises in Pamela directly affected the polarised reception and physical appearance of Pamela, this thesis then moves outside the pages of the book to examine the influence of sham and spurious publications on the physical appearance of later editions of Pamela. The opening chapters concerned with themes of guise and disguise are followed by a discussion of the printing business in eighteenth-century England and Ireland and an examination of the reading practices of Richardson’s circle of friends and fans. These two chapters serve to situate the novel in a broader political, social, and cultural context, which in turn shaped its creation and reception. The fifth and final chapter employs illustrations from Pamela and Fielding’s Joseph Andrews to shed light on the importance of the visual responses to the novel in the eighteenth-century. Ultimately, this new, interdisciplinary approach to Pamela fully explains for the first time how a work conceived of as a humble conduct-book-cum-novel for servant girls in 1740, was, by the end of the nineteenth-century, memorialised and anthologised as an elegant, moral masterpiece.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hawley, Judith, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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