Clarissa, by the Numbers

MAR 29, 2019 | 4:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


4406: English Student Lounge


March 29, 2019: 4:00 PM




Stephanie Insley Hershinow, Baruch College/CUNY
Samuel Richardson's Clarissa can seem like a novel about the attenuation of the material body, but in tension with such an account, I argue in this talk that Clarissa's body is asserted by numbers, constituted by abstraction, rather than eliminated by it. Centering Clarissa's meticulous logging of her daily life prior to her rape, I ask which kinds of experiences lend themselves to quantification and which affective states might even be generated from numbers. Rather than produce a merely presentist reading of Richardson's novel (i.e., "Clarissa had a Fitbit"), I use this talk to think through the implications of the novel's particular investment in quantification of experience as curiously prior to the bodily registration of experience. I close by comparing Clarissa’s practice to contemporary art that experiments with the aesthetics of self quantification, including the data visualizations of Laurie Frick.