In attempting to describe discontinuities in what he calls the episteme of Western culture, Michel Foucault asserts that Miguel de Cervantes’s
The question of genre and its link to the question of gender has achieved centrality in critical approaches to Lennox’s text, since feminist theories began to draw new attention to early British novels by eighteenth-century women writers around the late 1970s. While some scholars argue that Lennox satirizes the romance genre, or rather, satirizes and simultaneously rescues it, others suggest that it is not so much romance as the novel that she criticizes. Most of them, however, bring into high relief the seemingly naturalized relation between romance and femininity, whether they problematize the naturalization itself or stress romance’s “profound appeal to women” (Spacks, “Subtle Sophistry” 533). This association of romance with femininity has aroused controversy about how to read Arabella’s cure, with which
Recently, however, some critics have tended to shift the main emphasis of the analysis from the question of genre and its connection to the question of gender. Instead, they focus on the political or social aspects of
The terms “stranger” and “stranger-ness” may remind some readers of Julia Kristeva’s
Curiously enough, Ahmed does not give any specific explanation of her use of the term “strangerness” in her comments on Kristeva’s notion of “strangeness.” One possible explanation may be found in Ahmed’s suggestion that “we must refuse to take for granted the stranger’s status as a figure” (
Ahmed’s position appears to become problematic, however, when she dissents from those who view strangers, in her words, as “internal rather than external to identity” because this remark hints that she considers them external to it (
It is significant in exploring the gender-related implications of Arabella’s stranger-ness that, unlike her contemporary male writers who utilized the figure of Don Quixote, Lennox changed his sex and presented a
1For the other two reasons Foucault gives, see The Order of Things, 46-50. 2The other reason Jauss pinpoints is that Don Quixote “shows the medieval ontologizing solution to be a fiction—the delusion of a leftover hero” (9). See Question and Answer
“The Marquis, following the Plan of Life he had laid down, divided his Time between the Company of his Lady, his Library . . . and his Gardens” (6). As this quote implies, not only his gardens but the Marchioness is also
Interestingly, after the Marchioness’s death, the Marquis removes romances from “her Closet into his library, where Arabella found them” (7). This relocation of romances becomes more interesting when we consider that, without any mother figure, Arabella is permitted to receive her education only from her father. It is not just because, as the result of the fact that “all institutions of higher learning were closed to women” in the eighteenth century, they were educated “at home usually with the help of a paternal library” (Todd 199). It is also because, as has been observed, romances are the only medium through which Arabella is connected with her dead mother and, moreover, because the authority to teach her is transferred from her father to her mother who has a ghostly presence in her romance texts. By admitting romances into his library, the Marquis unwittingly confers on romances “a curious—though only partial—discursive legitimacy as part of the canon of texts officially sanctioned by male authority” (Barney 262). What matters is that this incorporation constitutes a kind of double self-subversion: both his paternal authority and the authority of the library are at least partly subverted, which he realizes only too late and tries to repair by burning romance texts when he finds that Arabella sees things according to what she reads in romances.
In order to shelter himself from the outside world, the Marquis constructs his home as a completely isolated place whose boundary should be impermeable. Ironically, however, it is his act of constructing a home “as a virtuous retreat from a corrupt world” that disturbs its boundary dividing inside from outside in the sense that both the Marchioness and Arabella give themselves up to romances because of their complete seclusion (Shoemaker 34). The Marquis’s home where he feels at home turns out to be a place where his lady and daughter feel out of place. In this home, the condition of feeling at home cannot be dissociated from that of feeling out of place, and into this contradictory place, Arabella is born. In this regard, it is not romances but rather the Marquis’s home itself that primarily conditions Arabella to be a female Quixote. Being “wholly secluded from the World,” Arabella has no diversion except “ranging like a Nymph through Gardens” and has “no other Conversation but that of a grave and melancholy Father, or her own Attendants” (7). She becomes prone to be quixotic because these unpleasant realities at home lead her to entertain herself with romances and her complete seclusion forecloses any opportunity for her to know the real world. It implies that, as Wendy Motooka points out, “‘female’ and ‘quixote’ need not be understood synonymously” (251-52). The association between the female and the quixotic that almost automatically connotes madness, and that between women and romance, are not pregiven but constructed by social conditions in which women feel out of place.
The Marquis’s home as a contradictory place where the fictional and the real coexist and where the condition of feeling at home also serves as the condition of feeling out of place is itself already quixotic. In this quixotic place, Arabella grows into a Quixote whose belief in the factuality of romances and consequent confusion of the fictional with the real make her appear a stranger from another world. Indeed, we can say that, in reading romances, she becomes a stranger both in a temporal and a spatial sense. This is because the romances that fascinate her are ascribed “To the
As critics have pointed out, it is a historical outcome that romance came “to suggest something both trivial and feminine” because “it chronicled a cultural shift of interest from war to love” (Ross 1). Before this kind of feminization, the heroic romance as quest narrative was, above all, “a tale of power and control demonstrating male prowess and strength” in which a woman hardly played any significant role except the quarry of a man’s quest (Schofield 18). This male-oriented romance plot remains unchanged either in the romances that Arabella reads or in the adventures that she craves: the male pursuer and the female pursuee. Arabella wants not to be a knight but a lady who is the quarry of a knight’s quest. It is the way to interpret romances that Arabella changes, which is well illustrated in her idealization of Cleopatra and Thalestris. Some male characters despise Cleopatra as “a Whore,” whereas Arabella admires her as a “fair and glorious Queen” (105). Likewise, Miss Glanville views Thalestris as “a terrible Woman” because she considers it preposterous that any ideal woman should have a masculine disposition, whereas for Arabella this queen of the Amazons embodies “the most stout and courageous of her Sex” and at the same time “a perfect Beauty” (125). Her appropriation of romances demonstrates that there may be only one story to tell, but “there is more than one way to tell it” (Haggerty 9). Or rather, a story can be transformed into another story according to how it is told.
In this context, Arabella’s interpretation of “The History of Miss Groves” looms large because it clearly shows what kind of difference can be made by Arabella’s way of interpreting romances (70). Being completely ignorant of what a scandal is, Arabella accepts Miss Groves’s history as an epitome of a romance heroine’s adventures, equal to “the unfortunate Cleopatra’s” (77). From her perspective, such things as a woman’s attempt to elope with her lover, her private marriage and consequent illegal childbirth, and her misfortune of being deserted, are what makes her life not scandalous but adventurous, not maliciously ridiculed but sympathetically lamented. As is connoted in her drawing a parallel between Miss Groves and Cleopatra, a woman’s misfortunes are primarily caused by her lover’s inconstancy, rather than self-incurred by her frivolities. Thus, Miss Groves is recast “as an afflicted heroine rather than a sexually transgressive juvenile delinquent” (Marshall 106). The blame for her ruin should be placed on her lovers, or rather, on the “reality that bruises her” (Ross 104). In this way, Arabella’s seemingly apparent delusions help her to see through what others cannot see, and the difference made by her way of reading romances functions as an implicit critique of “the exploitation and frustration of her sex in the eighteenth century” (Schofield 24). It is this role of critique that Arabella’s quixotic stranger-ness plays. That is, fictional romances provide her with critical perspectives on gender relations in the real world by making her disturb the normally accepted way of seeing things.
Unlike Charlotte, who thinks it impossible that “one Woman could praise another with any Sincerity,” Arabella by nature feels friendly toward other women (91). They could be an object of lament, like Miss Groves, or of admiration, like the Countess, but never be an object of envy or emulation. What renders Arabella’s benevolent attitude to other women threatening is that it erases the distinction between women, for she believes all women are, at least potentially, harrowed heroines out of romances. In this respect, the Vaux-Hall scene in which Arabella gets involved with a prostitute is revealing: “Are you
These critical potentialities of Arabella’s stranger-ness become more complicated when we consider that the romances that captivate her actually narrate stories about foreigners. Critics have paid attention to the gender question, centering on the empowering effect of romances for women. But they have relatively overlooked the fact that the romance heroines with whom Arabella identifies are foreigners. Even Miss Groves becomes identified with “
Arabella’s identification with foreign strangers intimated in her indulgence in romances becomes visualized in “the Singularity of her Dress” (263). As Felicity A. Nussbaum hints, Arabella’s veil is the visual sign of her stranger-ness, including “exotic otherness” (122). Interestingly, her stranger-ness provokes “a delicious Feast of Raillery and Scandal” from the ladies in Bath society, whereas it has attraction for the men (262). In fact, throughout the text, Arabella is treated as a rival or as an object of ridicule by other women except the Countess. Especially Miss Glanville does not only secretly want Arabella to be exposed to ridicule, but also artfully discloses Arabella’s absurdities to the ladies in Bath society. This situation is partly accounted for by the fact that “Arabella’s uncommon Beauty had gain’d her so many Enemies among the Ladies” (322). Considering that they pour ridicule on Arabella primarily because of her singularity that makes her look like someone from outside their society, however, their jests and sarcasms can be seen not only as their expression of envy but as their way to defuse potential threats embodied in the person of Arabella, one example of which is the nondiscrimination of proper ladies from improper ones and of English women from foreign others.
On hearing that Arabella is the daughter of the deceased Marquis, the ladies in Bath society, “aw’d by the Sanction of Quality, dropt their Ridicule on her Dress,” and recast Arabella’s strangerness as a whim made by an upper-class lady with a great fortune (263-64). But this recategorization of her stranger-ness into eccentric conduct does not mean that “the difference that signals Arabella’s outsiderness becomes invisible” (Mack 200). Disagreeing with Nussbaum’s assertion that Arabella’s veil makes the other visible, Mack insists that, after being visualized, “the difference that signals Arabella’s outsiderness” gets effectively erased, “as the Bath residents claim her as their own” (200). But their inclusion of her, which is only temporarily effected, is not enough to cancel out her stranger-ness. Or it can be put this way: her stranger-ness stands out too much to be incorporated into Bath society, and by extension, English society as a whole. Owing to her high social status, the singularity of her dress that is initially identified as the signal of her being a stranger from a foreign land becomes accepted as a whim made by one of the insiders. But her speech, inclination, and manners that differ so widely from those of Bath society continue to mark her stranger-ness and constantly cause ridicule and sarcasm among the members of Bath society, which is illustrated in “the Jest circulated very freely at Arabella’s Expence,” after the episode in which Arabella misrecognizes Mr. Tinsel as one of her ravishers (322). In a sense, her social status puts her in a liminal space between English and foreign women, rather than rendering her stranger-ness invisible.
Arabella’s social class helps her become partly incorporated into Bath society in which she is nevertheless a cultural stranger. Bath society can neither completely expel her as a total stranger because of her Englishness, nor completely accept her as one of them because of her cultural stranger-ness. In this context, Charlotte’s antipathy against foreigners is telling: “What signifies what Foreigners do? I shall never form my Conduct, upon the Example of Outlandish People; what is common enough in their Countries, would be very particular here” (184). Mary Patricia Martin reads this passage as betraying Charlotte’s “truly parochial sensibility” that serves as a foil for Arabella’s moral “superiority” of assuming “the best of others” (56, 57). But she fails to note that it also reveals Charlotte’s fear of being like her cousin, of being contaminated by her cultural strangerness. From Charlotte’s perspective, Arabella is in a sense infected with a cultural plague and is even carrying it, a danger from which Charlotte has to protect herself. What concerns Charlotte most is to be a seemly lady according to British customs, to draw a clear line between herself and the foreign. It is, above all, the fear of their own propriety as Englishwomen to be corrupted that underlies the poignant sarcasms poured upon Arabella by the ladies in Bath society.
As “a symptom that precisely turns ‘we’ into a problem,” “the foreigner comes in when the consciousness of my difference arises,” Kristeva writes in
Arabella’s stranger-ness also helps us to see what kind of community Bath society is. Bath society observes Arabella, holding her up to mockery but at the same time being “aw’d to Respect by that irresistible Charm in the Person of Arabella” (272). Occupying the position of stranger within, however, Arabella herself becomes the observer of Bath society as a whole: she reflects and turns back the observing eye of Bath society upon its owner. Although the ladies repeatedly make her an object of jest, it is their intense but shallow sense of rivalry and jealousy toward Arabella that becomes a target of criticism. Likewise, although Mr. Selvin and Mr. Tinsel temporarily position themselves against Arabella, it is the former’s superficial knowledge of histories and the latter’s vain affectation that are criticized. But what becomes exposed to criticism is less any of them individually than Bath society as a whole, and its customs and manners such as superficiality, pedantry, and gossipiness, as opposed to Arabella’s interest in “something which may excite my Admiration, engage my Esteem, or influence my Practice” as well as to her indiscriminately friendly attitude toward any woman (274). If Arabella’s stranger-ness looks more like personal eccentricity at her paternal home, it enables her to acquire a public role of observing and criticizing Bath society as she comes into contact with it.
Arabella’s public role of critic turns out to be more significant, considering that women’s public role, if any, is nothing other than their “inconsiderable actions” in “trifling Amusement” (279). Those around Arabella think that her “absurd and ridiculous Notions” have been caused by “the Solitude she lived in” and that therefore an “acquaintance with the World” would enlighten her as to the ways of the real world (254, 323). But the world she has to learn about is the fashionable society in Bath or in London, far from the one in which she can experience remarkable adventures worthy to be recorded as a romance. Lennox suggests that there is another public place where insiders are engaged in something other than entertainments: coffeehouses, which, in
Considering the critical potentialities of her stranger-ness in the circles where she lives, Arabella’s romance reading turns out to be more than quixotic. As Susan Staves implies regarding a “fundamental ambiguity” of quixotic figures, Arabella cannot be merely regarded as “a buffoon” provoked into pursuing adventures by absurd romances, but as “an exemplary figure” who refuses to compromise with “the filthy reality” of the world (194). There is no doubt that, for her to be a proper lady according to British customs, romantic whims should be erased from her mind. But it is the critical potentialities contained in her cultural stranger-ness rather than her quixotic eccentricities themselves that should be cured. For this to be effected, above all, the romance genre as a whole should be discarded because Arabella’s stranger-ness is attributed to her romance readings. It is the very reason why the romance genre is characterized as outmoded and foreign. Moreover, it is at this point that the question of genre precisely overlaps with the question of gender.
Arabella’s cultural stranger-ness becomes recast as what can be called the generic struggle of the novel with romance. She occupies a liminal space between the foreign and the English, between the past and the present, and between the fictional and the real. In these dichotomous confrontations, the former terms are considered those characterizing romance and the latter those characterizing the novel. The cure for Arabella’s stranger-ness is to make her reject the characteristics of romance and instead embrace those of the novel. Moreover, it is nothing other than defusing the critical potentialities of her stranger-ness by leading her to return to the domestic sphere of home, that is, to get married to Mr. Glanville. She originally resolves an “obstinate resistance” when her father recommends him as her husband: “What Lady in Romance ever married the Man that was chose for her?” (27) After being finally disillusioned by the Doctor, however, she gives herself to him not just voluntarily but as a present: “To give you myself, said she with all my remaining Imperfections, is making you but a poor Present in turn for the Obligations your generous Affection has laid me under to you” (383). She turns herself from an unattainable lady out of romances into a modest partner who would comply with whatever obligations she owes to her husband.
The problem is that the separation of the novel from romance cannot be neat because romance turns out to be constitutive of the novel. Lennox remarks on this point in the character of Sir George, who “was perfectly well acquainted with the chief Characters in the most of the
Focusing on the scapegoat mechanism operating in the definition of the novel as a new narrative form, Laurie Langbauer draws a parallel between romance and women: “each is the name for qualities that status quo finds transgressive and threatening, and attempts to dispel by projecting into a separate genre or gender” (91). Although she rightly emphasizes the respective otherness of romance to the novel and of women to patriarchy, she ignores that, in Lennox’s text, a structural parallel can also be drawn between the novel and women. This oversight leads her to conclude that “a woman can’t take herself out of romance without disappearing altogether” (81). As is implied in Kate Levin’s insistence that it is “to survive” that Lennox “became a ‘woman writer’ according to her society’s specifications,” Arabella becomes a proper lady by adjusting herself to patriarchy (278). She turns into a patriarchal version of women rather than, as Langbauer argues, “stop[ping] being a woman” (81). But this reform does not completely cancel out the effects of her romance readings because they are what prepare her to be “one of the best Matches in
The double-bind relationship of Arabella and of the novel to romance accounts for the displacement of the issue of fictionality by other issues such as foreignness, temporality, or criminality. Arabella’s fundamental illusion is that she believes romances narrate things that really happened. Accordingly, it is the fictionality of romances that Arabella should acknowledge so that she can give them up. As Catherine Gallagher argues, “the Quixote’s cure begins not with the renunciation but with the acknowledgement of fiction,” which is exactly what the Doctor tries (179). The Doctor condemns romances first for being “Fictions,” and then for being “absurd” and “Criminal” (374). But he attempts to prove romances to be fictions by pointing out that they are written by French writers and that they are about the past, rather than by directly tackling their fictionality. Seeing that Arabella is not persuaded, he advises her to “compare these Books with antient Histories” and adds that “any Narrative is more liable to be confuted by its Inconsistency with known Facts” (378). Either way, he fails to persuade her of the fictionality of romances, though she allows him to
It is the Doctor’s claim for what can be called the criminality of romance that leads Arabella to abandon romances. The Doctor blames romances for “giv[ing] new fire to the Passions of Revenge and Love” that should be suppressed by “Reason and Piety” (380). “They teach Women to Exact Vengeance, and Men to execute it; teach Women to expect not only Worships, but the dreadful Worship of human Sacrifices” (380). According to the Doctor, romances are criminal in the sense that they are filled with “Accounts of Battles in which thousands are slaughtered for no other Purpose than to gain a smile from the haughty Beauty” (381), and romance heroines such as Cleopatra and Thalestris whom Arabella is eager to imitate are in a sense criminals because they instigates such battles. At this moment when the Doctor draws her attention to “the Crime of encouraging Violence and Revenge” (381), Arabella is finally persuaded to give up romances with abhorrence: “I tremble indeed to think how nearly I have approached the Brink of Murder, when I thought myself only consulting my own Glory; but whatever I suffer, I will never more demand or instigate Vengeance, nor consider my Punctilios as important enough to be balanced against Life” (381).
It is in the mouth of the Countess that the issue of fictionality first becomes displaced by that of temporality: “‘Custom,’ said the Countess smiling, ‘changes the very Nature of Things, and what was honourable a thousand Years ago, may probably be look’d upon as infamous now’” (328). The world of romance is here described not as fiction but as “simply the past” (Warren 373). A similar displacement takes place when Arabella and the Doctor debate the fictionality of romances and their writers’ credibility. Firmly believing the factuality of romance, Arabella retorts upon the Doctor’s charge against it: “he that writes without intention to be credited, must write to little Purpose; for what Pleasure or Advantage can arise from Facts that never happened?” (376). As this passage shows, Arabella based her argument for the factuality of romance on its writer’s credibility, which she thinks is in turn based on “a Love of Truth in the human Mind” (376). By contrast, the Doctor disconnects the fictionality of romance from the credibility of romance writers, and further, displaces it by instead bringing into focus the question of temporality:
If at first the Doctor tries to persuade Arabella to abandon her romances because of their fictionality, then he slightly changes his focus and recommends the fictional narrative “of our own Time” called the novel. Romance is problematic less because of its fictionality than its irrelevance to the present moment. Moreover, fictionality itself turns out to be what should “be taken for granted” instead of being hidden in order for the novel to be recommended as the proper form of fiction (Gallagher 178). As Martin points out, “Arabella is not being asked to give up fiction itself, but rather to exchange one kind of fiction for another” (52).
Langbauer insists that the condemnation of romance “as a specious fiction” serves to cover up “the fictiveness” of the novel (64). But as the displacement of fictionality by temporality or criminality performed in curing Arabella hints, early novelists evade the blame for the fictionality of their writings not by covering it up but by overtly embracing it. In much the same way, Arabella gets cured of her confusion between the fictional and the real, and therefore of her quixotic stranger-ness, by learning “to presuppose and appreciate fictionality” (Gallagher 179). This parallel reminds us of the fact that fiction and reality did not become dissociated from each other until the modern age began, as both Foucault and Jauss argue. In this context, it is significant that early novelists “often use the terms ‘romance,’ ‘history,’ and ‘novel’ with an evident interchangeability” (McKeon 25). The interchangeable use of these terms and the separation of fiction and reality at the beginning of the modern age suggest that the dissociation of the novel from romance is simultaneous with that of fiction from reality. To put it another way, the novel emerges as a distinctly modern British species of writing as fiction gets separated from reality into a discrete category, and in this same process romance are labeled as “empty Fictions” that narrate stories about foreigners living in another place and another time and therefore should be abandoned (377). This is the reason why the Doctor displaces the issue of fictionality by other issues such as foreignness, pastness, or criminality that serve as the grounds for dismissing romances as senseless fictions.
Arabella’s cure of quixotic stranger-ness begins with the supposition of fictionality and ends with its separation from foreignness, pastness, and criminality, all of which are deployed to displace the fictionality question. This suggests not only that Arabella becomes reformed regarding her quixotic stranger-ness, but also that the fictionality of the novel that she comes to embrace is not the same as that of romance, but one purged of all the negative aspects that are attributed to romance. In this purification, Arabella becomes normalized from being a cultural stranger into an exemplary woman whose domesticity the novel advocates. The novel thus claims as its own the authority to represent an ideal femininity by reformulating the relation between the fictional and the real, or rather inventing the category of fiction as such. It should be noted here again that the invention of fiction does not so much mean the clean distinction of fiction and reality as their coming “together in the category of the novel” (Martin 52). The relation between the two still remains problematic, even if they are not confused any more as they are by Arabella’s quixotic confusion. Likewise, the relation of the novel and of Arabella to romance remains problematic because romances are already incorporated both into
One might argue that Arabella’s cure dismantles the critical potentialities contained in her quixotic stranger-ness because she adjusts herself to the real world by giving up the fictional world of romances. Indeed, she seems to abandon her desire to be somebody whose adventures would be written after her death. But it remains ambiguous whether we could say that she really rejects romance as an empty fiction. Romance cannot be simply dismissed as a fiction that blinds her to reality because what she learned from romance has already become part of who she is. Arabella should spit out whatever has been inculcated in her by romance, which has already become part of her. That is, her cure refers to nothing else than her expulsion of certain parts of herself. It reminds us of the way of one’s becoming oneself formulated by Kristeva in
Arabella “burst into Tears” when she is finally dissuaded from pursuing romantic ideals in the real world. But what kind of tears does she shed? Considering that she is compelled to submit to the Doctor because of the criminality of romance, this question should be considered in relation to the question of what kind of criminality romance has. There are several aspects the Doctor points out regarding the romance’s criminality: instigation of “Passions,” “extravagance of Praise,” erosion of “Sympathy,” and above all, incitement of “unnecessary Bloodshed” (380, 381). What is really criminal about romance, however, is the gender relation between a commanding heroine and her obeying adorers, that is, “women’s importance in it” and its implication of female companionship exemplified in Arabella’s offer to protect the prostitute at Vaux-Hall(Spencer 183). In this regard, Arabella’s tears cannot simply be read as those of relief that, in the Doctor’s words, “no Life was ever lost by your Incitement,” but as those of mourning over what should be lost as the result of her cure (381). Her explosion of tears looks similar to “the violence of sobs” in the middle of which “‘I’ give birth to myself,” sobs that help me become myself and at the same time mourn for what should be lost (Kristeva,
Arabella union with Mr. Glanville is portrayed as ideal: “Mr.