Sentimentalism in Nineteenth-Century America: Literary and Cultural Practices

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9781611476057: Sentimentalism in Nineteenth-Century America: Literary and Cultural Practices

Sentimentalism emerged in eighteenth-century Europe as a moral philosophy founded on the belief that individuals are able to form relationships and communities because they can, by an effort of the imagination, understand one another’s feelings. American authors of both sexes who accepted these views cultivated readers’ sympathy with others in order to promote self-improvement, motivate action to relieve suffering, reinforce social unity, and build national identity. Entwined with domesticity and imperialism and finding expression in literature and in public and private rituals, sentimentalism became America’s dominant ideology by the early nineteenth century. Sentimental writings and practices had political uses, some reformist and some repressive. They played major roles in the formation of bourgeois consciousness.

The first new collection of scholarly essays on American sentimentalism since 1999, this volume brings together ten recent studies, eight published here for the first time. The Introduction assesses the current state of sentimentalism studies; the Afterword reflects on sentimentalism as a liberal discourse central to contemporary political thought as well as literary studies. Other contributors, exploring topics characteristic of the field today, examine nineteenth-century authors’ treatments of education, grief, social inequalities, intimate relationships, and community.

This volume has several distinctive features. It illustrates sentimentalism’s appropriation of an array of literary forms (advice literature, personal narrative, and essays on education and urban poverty as well as poetry and the novel) objects (memorial volumes), and cultural practices (communal singing, benevolence). It includes four essays on poetry, less frequently studied than fiction. It identifies internal contradictions that eventually fractured sentimentalism’s viability as a belief system—yet suggests that the protean sentimental mode accommodated itself to revisionary and ironized literary uses, thus persisting long after twentieth-century critics pronounced it a casualty of the Civil War. This collection also offers fresh perspectives on three esteemed authors not usually classified as sentimentalists—Sarah Piatt, Walt Whitman, and Henry James—thus demonstrating that sentimental topics and techniques informed “realism” and “modernism” as they emerged Offering close readings of nineteenth-century American texts and practices, this book demonstrates both the limits of sentimentalism and its wide and lasting influence.

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About the Author:

Mary G. De Jong is associate professor of English and Women's Studies at Penn State Altoona.

Review:

De Jong, coeditor (with Earl Yarington) of Popular Nineteeth-Century Women Writers and the Literary Marketplace (2007), has brought together ten essays on sentimentalism in American literature and culture. The contributions--most by rising scholars--are grouped into three sections: "Rethinking Sentimental Motherhood," "Reform and Sympathetic Identification," and "Loss, Death, Mourning, and Grief." The diversity of the essays supports De Jong's main assertions: contemporary criticism views sentimentalism as a protean term applicable to literary and nonliterary forms; sentimentalism characterizes works representing liberal, progressive, and reactionary stances; and the concept is associated not solely with femininity. Several essays focus on men: novelist Donald Grant Mitchell and poets Walt Whitman and Henry James, who all dealt with sentimentality. Mary Louise Kete, author of Sentimental Collaborations, contributes an illuminating afterword (which could well have substituted for De Jong's less cogent introduction) contextualizing the essays and offering an overview of current scholarship. Especially significant is Kete's discussion of sympathy ("the definitive affect of sentiment") and its relationship to the liberal self. This collection offers thoughtful readings of the texts considered, although the essays as a whole do not advance any particular overarching argument. Summing Up: Recommended. For collections serving graduate students and researchers. (CHOICE)

These essays make important claims for connections between sentimentalism and realism and modernism. As a whole, the collection reaffirms the centrality of the mode to nineteenth-century American literature, and suggests that the limits of sentimentalism stretch further than is usually acknowledged. (Year's Work in English Studies)

Tracing the eighteenth-century origins of sentimentalism, the collection illustrates its proliferation in nineteenth-century America. Sentimental writings by both sexes played a major role in the formation of middle-class culture and identity as sentimentalism interacted with developing ideals of domesticity, reform movements, and nationhood. Contributors explore motherhood, education, reform, loss and mourning, and the Civil War’s explosion of the faith in universal feelings and ideas on which sentimentalism was based.

(“Both sexes” is an important phrase, for, contrary to popular belief even among literary scholars, men participated actively in literary sentimentalism)

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Book Description Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, United States, 2013. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Sentimentalism emerged in eighteenth-century Europe as a moral philosophy founded on the belief that individuals are able to form relationships and communities because they can, by an effort of the imagination, understand one another s feelings. American authors of both sexes who accepted these views cultivated readers sympathy with others in order to promote self-improvement, motivate action to relieve suffering, reinforce social unity, and build national identity. Entwined with domesticity and imperialism and finding expression in literature and in public and private rituals, sentimentalism became America s dominant ideology by the early nineteenth century. Sentimental writings and practices had political uses, some reformist and some repressive. They played major roles in the formation of bourgeois consciousness. The first new collection of scholarly essays on American sentimentalism since 1999, this volume brings together ten recent studies, eight published here for the first time. The Introduction assesses the current state of sentimentalism studies; the Afterword reflects on sentimentalism as a liberal discourse central to contemporary political thought as well as literary studies. Other contributors, exploring topics characteristic of the field today, examine nineteenth-century authors treatments of education, grief, social inequalities, intimate relationships, and community. This volume has several distinctive features. It illustrates sentimentalism s appropriation of an array of literary forms (advice literature, personal narrative, and essays on education and urban poverty as well as poetry and the novel) objects (memorial volumes), and cultural practices (communal singing, benevolence). It includes four essays on poetry, less frequently studied than fiction. It identifies internal contradictions that eventually fractured sentimentalism s viability as a belief system-yet suggests that the protean sentimental mode accommodated itself to revisionary and ironized literary uses, thus persisting long after twentieth-century critics pronounced it a casualty of the Civil War. This collection also offers fresh perspectives on three esteemed authors not usually classified as sentimentalists-Sarah Piatt, Walt Whitman, and Henry James-thus demonstrating that sentimental topics and techniques informed realism and modernism as they emerged Offering close readings of nineteenth-century American texts and practices, this book demonstrates both the limits of sentimentalism and its wide and lasting influence. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9781611476057

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