Richardson's 'Sir Charles Grandison' and the symptoms of subjectivity
Barr, Rebecca Anne
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Barr, R.(2010)"Richardson's 'Sir Charles Grandison' and the symptoms of subjectivity",The Eighteenth Century, Volume 51, Number 4, Winter 2010, pp. 391-411
Proceeding from the academic orthodoxy that the eighteenth-century novel is a key site of the creation of modern subjectivity, this essay examines the representations of authority, morality, and community in Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison in order to question such genealogies. Instead it pursues Margaret Anne Doody's comment that Grandison is "almost totalitarian" in its vision of social relations, and argues that the novel is concerned with the suppression of individualism in service of creating self-lacerating communal subjects. Taking the two main criticisms of the novel - the perpetual frankness of its correspondents and the insubstantial characterization of its hero - the essay argues that both are essential to its moral project. Reading Grandison alongside Slavoj Zizek's work on the symptoms of subjection, the essay seeks to elucidate the totalitarian tendencies of the novel and to interpret its critical difficulties as symptoms of its ideological unpleasantness.