". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, July 2, 2009


As anyone knows who has spent time contemplating the history of the novel in English, Samuel Richardson's Pamela (and Clarissa, in another branch of fiction in English) is a foundation work of influence for the novel of manners as well as the working class girl making her upwardly mobile, class-jumping way in the world. These novels include, indeed, both Pride and Prejudice via Pamela, and Jane Eyrevia Clarissa (the gothic mode).

Oddly, while in the 18th century Pamela had many theatrical adaptations, in the 20th - 21st centuries not even the BBC has paid her screen homage, though it did create a series fairly recently from Clarissa. Is this because while Pamela succeeds in her class-jumping via the achievement of her romantic object's objective (nevermind that in the sequels the romantic object, as husband, comes through as agonizingly less her ideal) while Clarissa is abducted, drugged, raped, while unconscious, of her maidenhead by the vastly wealthy, darkly handsome, bad and dangerous rejected suitor, and chooses, then, to die? Clarissa's lack of a happy ending more reflects the state of the world as we are experiencing it than does Pamela's wealthy, upwardly mobile marriage. Pamela achieves this marriage by preserving that commodity of woman's greatest value, her virginity, from the man she hopes to marry, rather than become yet another in the endless population of ravished-by-household-males female household help of history.

Perhaps the most familiar recent novels out of this tradition are The Bridget Jones Diary series and The Nanny Diaries -- most chicklit fiction comes to us via these these roads then. Another way of looking at these works is they express each generation's middle class female's aspirations, hopes and fears, and the perils she must face which will prevent our often eponymous heroine from achieving her objectives. Many of these works make very satisfying films and / or television.

So, why yes, Sex and the City is yet another Pamela-kind spawn of that rigorously self-defined middle class English aspiring gentleman, Samuel Richardson. Carrie gets Big, the wealthy man who lifts her into a world of unlimited credit and hobnobbing with others of that ilk.

Have I mentioned how much I have loved fiction during most of my life? For many years the novel, a great novel (in all the manners/forms in which any individual novel may be great), was the one constant in my life, the one thing I could depend upon to never let me down, no matter how badly things were going in my own life or the national or global life.

I wonder if I can feel that way about novels now. If not, perhaps it is because the novel, at least in English, has been so entwined with social betterment, and judging by the employment numbers issued today -- the fully honest numbers -- we are nearly 17% unemployment, with no jobs creation even a glimmer on the horizon, nor is health care -- since the stranglehold the health industry has upon our elected politicians is so steel-clad they still insist on pinning health coverage to employment.

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