Another blast from the past today. When I was doing research for one of my graduate school literature classes, I decided that I would write summaries of the critical articles that I read so that I could refer to them later. In part this is because the articles are so long I needed to know what they were useful for, and in part because the information posted about them in the article databases isn’t that helpful. So enjoy (?) my discursive summary of “Reasonableness and Domestic Fiction” by Amit Yahav-Brown (2006), which can be found on JSTOR here. I hope it helps someone with their research.
Amit Yahav-Brown opens “Reasonableness and Domestic Fiction” by briefly illustrating how often iterations of “reasonable” occur in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. At first the terms “rational” and “reasonable” seem synonymous, as indeed they were becoming around the time of Clarissa, but they were still distinct in some important ways. Citing John Rawls, Yahav-Brown states: “while rationality is derived from the deliberation of a single agent, reasonableness is derived from deliberations among multiple agents. To establish rationality of an act or claim we can reason alone; but to establish the reasonableness of an act or claim we must reason with others” (806). Because of this Yahav-Brown concludes that Clarissa’s deathbed deliberations, carefully explained to Belford, are reasonable, causing Belford to acquiesce to her even though he disagrees with her actions.
Yahav-Brown then moves on to discuss John Locke’s The Reasonableness of Christianity which is a still-different use of “rationality.” For Locke, “rationality” is “an inquiry that individuals undertake alone but that confirms both the natural and divine orders of the world” (807). This transitions into a comparison between Locke and Richardson, explaining, “for [Locke] ‘reasonableness’ marks a move from ignorance to conversion, while for Richardson it marks the move from disagreement to toleration” (808). However, both Locke and Richardson agree that there is “an aspect of reason – reasonableness – that replies not on rational inquiry but on encounters among individuals, in which one person mediates evidence for another and through this process enables the other to accept knowledge that isn’t directly available to him” (808).
Next, Yahav-Brown compares Richardson’s “reason” to Daniel Defoe’s, specifically his An Essay Upon Projects, and, briefly, the characters of Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe. In contrast, “Richardson introduces point of view as a crucial variable,” “while Defoe’s novels lend themselves to a monistic conception of reason, Richardson’s Clarissa lends itself to a pluralistic one” (809).