Textual Resurrection: Suicidal Women in Eighteenth-Century Media
Vines, Luke Thomas
This thesis seeks to highlight the unique position of women’s suicide notes in the eighteenth-century media both because modern scholarship tends to overlook them and because the doubly constricted field of narrative options to which British women in the eighteenth-century had access heightens readers’ awareness that suicide notes are a human being’s final chance at literary self-construction. By first focusing on the catastrophic pressures and limitations women faced when they narrativized their suicides, one can then put the eighteenth century’s preoccupation with the literary fragment into conversation with the rise of sentimental literature. Employing real women’s published suicide notes as a locus of analysis illuminates how, reacting to the dilemmas presented by literary fragments and sentimental literature, the epistolary novel—emblematized herein by Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and Clarissa—attempts to solve the dilemma made blatant by suicide note publication.