Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jim Springer Borck


This dissertation is a study of texts, focusing on how texts are constructed (through both words as well as physical attributes) and how they are edited after their initial composition. The scope of this dissertation is limited to Samuel Richardson (1689-1761) and his rare 1750 third edition of Clarissa and to the characters in Clarissa and their familiar letters. I argue that the altering of a text is a negotiation of power between the editor and the author, and that editors advance their personal agendas by undermining the intentions of the author. In Chapter 1, I explain the relevancy of textual studies to literary criticism. In Chapter 2, I examine how Richardson, master printer as well as author, constructs Clarissa as a "material text," meaning that he builds plot, characterization, and his didactic message through the text's linguistic as well as physical features. In Chapter 3, I address the familiar letters constructed by characters within Clarissa. Although the material details of these fictional letters--including handwriting and seals--cannot be seen by readers of the novel, they can still be conceptualized in the mind and interpreted for their visual meaning. In Chapter 4, as a transition to the editing of texts, I summarize the eighteenth- and twentieth-century editorial theories most relevant to Clarissa. In Chapter 5, I evaluate Richardson's role as editor of Clarissa, focusing on the textual apparatus he constructs around his novel. Richardson exploits the editorial role in a manner not seen in other eighteenth-century novels, using the apparatus to control readers' interpretations. In Chapter 6, I discuss the characters in Clarissa as editors, showing how they frequently alter and even forge/rewrite letters after their initial composition. These editorial actions, which I refer to as "fictional editing," expand the narrative beyond the initial act of writing and complicate the issues of characterization, gender, and subjectivity inherent in the familiar letter. In Chapter 7, I conclude by suggesting additional concerns for textual/literary critics, including the implications of lost physical details in electronic texts.