Sympathy, Sensibility and the Literature of Feeling in the Eighteenth Century

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About this product Product Information What makes it possible for self-interest, cruelty and violence to become part of the benevolent, compassionate ideology of eighteenth-century sensibility? This book explores forms of emotional response, including sympathy, tears, swoons and melancholia through a range of eighteenth-century literary, philosophical and scientific texts.

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I/ The Man of Feeling: A New "Softened" Manhood

Many of the authors covered by Csengei are familiar figures in the canons of sensibility - Shaftesbury, Hume, Smith, Richardson, Mackenzie, Rousseau - but careful yet imaginative readings offer new insights. Mingling innovative readings of important yet relatively neglected works such as Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield and Mackenzie's Man of Feeling with rigorous considerations of philosophical and medical history, Csengei details how sensibility emerges in intimate relation to debates about the status of self-interest in human motivation and about the relationship of life to the liveliness of the senses.

She shows how these questions came to inflect the study of punishment, the ethics of scientific experimentation, and the question of the pleasures involved in gazing on suffering.


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The book makes a compelling case for the ethical urgency of rethinking our notions of subjectivity, otherness, and spectatorship through eighteenth-century intellectual history. Show More Show Less.

Sensationalism, Sensuality and Sensibility in Eighteenth-Century Great Britain - BSECS

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The single chapter on Blake has, in any case, now been largely superseded by Leopold Damrosch Jr. Press, The organization of the chapter on Samuel Richardson around Clarissa makes this part of the book the most persuasive. Apt and steadily supplied quotation is used to explore the insecurity and roleplaying of Lovelace and the contradictory desires of a Clarissa whose wish for independence is compromised by her desire for social recognition.

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It is wise of Cox to give some emphasis to this partial failure of Richardson, because novelists can sometimes appear to be remote and distant from the dramatic autonomy of the characters they create. All is not well with some of these judgments, however. Although the conclusions here, and elsewhere, are often grander than the weight of evidence assembled might support, it is welcome to see any discussion of Thomas Chatterton—whose place in literary history shelve under Cinderella Romantics?

Milton is also a poem in which Blake makes unusually complicated distinctions between the states of the self.



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