This article examines the centrality of the motif of the hand in Samuel Richardson's Pamela. By underscoring the structural salience of the hand-derived notions of maintenance, command, manumission, manufacture and manners, the article seeks to prove that the novel plots a political transit from barbarism to civilization. This claim is advanced through the convergence of three interpretive strategies: a close reading of the novel that tracks the literal and figurative presence of the hand; direct confrontation with texts of political theory, with special emphasis on Thomas Hobbes and John Locke; and the use of contemporary phenomenology on touch by Jean-Luc Nancy and Jacques Derrida. The resulting interpretation identifies Pamela as a “chiropractress” who resorts to the religious violence of the miracle in order to neutralize the patriarchal hand and obtain political intangibility. Still, the true miracle in the novel is the reformation caused by the girl's superfluous writing. By thus staging a fable of domestication through verbal manners, Pamela contributes, decisively but problematically, to the consolidation of domestic fiction. Both the residual omnipresence of the patriarchal hand and the exorbitance of the handmaid's manners attest to the defective containment of the political by the domestic.
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Julian Jimenez Heffernan; Pamela's Hands: Political Intangibility and the Production of Manners. Novel 1 May 2013; 46 (1): 26–49. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2019101
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