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Rags of Immortality: Clarissa’s Clothing and the Exchange of Second-Hand Goods

Irene Fizer, Hofstra University

Volume 20, no. 1, Fall 2007

©McMaster University, 2015. All articles published on the Eighteenth-Century Fiction website are protected by copyright held by Eighteenth-Century Fiction, a journal published by the Faculty of Humanities at McMaster University.

ABSTRACT

This article argues that the glove shop is at the centre of Clarissa’s denouement not as a setting for Clarissa’s renunciation of the material world but as one that allows her to negotiate with that world on her own terms. It serves, most overtly, as her conduit to London’s second-hand clothing trade. Through this trade and her formal will Clarissa controls the transfer of her personal effects, rather than disencumbering herself of these effects to hasten salvation. Through a series of redemptive acts, prominently but not solely defined by her salvaging of apparel, the novel endorses an economic formation in which portable goods are kept in circulation for reuse, resale, or to propel new trade — their value altered over time but not emptied out. Clarissa’s sale of apparel is represented in the novel as a means by which she accommodates to a status of radical disinheritance, rather than as a debasement, and claims ownership over herself.

Other ECF articles on the topic of “Clothing” include:

Clothes without Bodies: Objects, Humans, and the Marketplace in Eighteenth-Century It-Narratives and Trade Cards
by CHLOE WIGSTON SMITH (ECF 23.2, Winter 2010-11)

With My Hair in Crystal: Mourning Clarissa
by KATHLEEN M. OLIVER (ECF 23.1, Fall 2010)

Women’s Pockets and the Construction of Privacy in the Long Eighteenth Century
by ARIANE FENNETAUX (ECF 20.3, Spring 2008)

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