Barbara Puschmann-Nalenz
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‘The place where my present hopes began to dawn’
Space, limitation and the perception of female selfhood in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela
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This chapter aims at mapping the female self represented in Samuel Richardson’s first epistolary novel by investigating a possible correlation of spatial situatedness and emotional condition. The changing inside/outside setting, which for Pamela has received little critical attention, reflects the different emotional states of the heroine. In four central scenes the expression of the passions, considered essential for the female self, manifests itself outside the house, whereas its memorising representation – which in the early editions is strikingly indeterminate as to Pamela’s own sensations – transpires inside the closet. Her emotional outbursts occur in the spaciousness and proximity of nature, where she is overwhelmed by sentiment. Similarly, Mr B.’s advances, his confession of love and the marriage proposal take place in a peripatetic outdoor situation: physical movement becomes vital where change is envisaged. Pamela addresses a young woman’s struggle for the acknowledgement of her identity, which she performs and insists on; but while restraint and withdrawal prevail in her conduct the moments of agitation and demonstrative emotionality come to pass during the breakouts from her ‘shell’ or ‘confinement’. The issues addressed also show that the novelistic contention and philosophical debate about ‘individual’ and ‘identity’ are equally topical in Britain around 1740.

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