Sentimentalism in literature, National characteristics, American, in literature, American fiction--19th century--History and criticism, Violence in literature, and Empathy in literature
Working to reconcile the Christian dictum to'love one's neighbor as oneself'with evidence of U.S. sociopolitical aggression, including slavery, corporal punishment of children, and Indian removal, Elizabeth Barnes focuses her attention on aggressors--rather than the weak or abused--to suggest ways of understanding paradoxical relationships between empathy, violence, and religion that took hold so strongly in nineteenth-century American culture.Looking at works by Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott, among others, Barnes shows how violence and sensibility work together to produce a more'sensitive'citizenry. Aggression becomes a site of redemptive possibility because salvation is gained when the powerful protagonist identifies with the person he harms. Barnes argues that this identification and emotional transformation come at a high price, however, as the reparative ends are bought with another's blood. Critics of nineteenth-century literature have tended to think about sentimentality and violence as opposing strategies in the work of nation-building and in the formation of U.S. national identity. Yet to understand how violence gets folded into sentimentality's egalitarian goals is to recognize, importantly, the deep entrenchment of aggression in the empathetic structures of liberal, Christian culture in the United States.
American literature--19th century--History and criticism, Emotions in literature, Didactic fiction, American--History and criticism, Sentimentalism in literature, Sympathy in literature, and Sex role in literature
In this book, Glenn Hendler explores what he calls the'logic of sympathy'in novels by Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, T. S. Arthur, Martin Delany, Horatio Alger, Fanny Fern, Nathaniel Parker Willis, Henry James, Mark Twain, and William Dean Howells. For these nineteenth-century writers, he argues, sympathetic identification was not strictly an individual, feminizing, and private feeling but the quintessentially public sentiment--a transformative emotion with the power to shape social institutions and political movements.Uniting current scholarship on gender in nineteenth-century American culture with historical and theoretical debates on the definition of the public sphere in the period, Hendler shows how novels taught diverse readers to'feel right,'to experience their identities as male or female, black or white, middle or working class, through a sentimental, emotionally based structure of feeling. He links novels with such wide-ranging cultural and political discourses as the temperance movement, feminism, and black nationalism. Public Sentiments demonstrates that, whether published for commercial reasons or for higher moral and aesthetic purposes, the nineteenth-century American novel was conceived of as a public instrument designed to play in a sentimental key.