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Uneasy Fellowships: The Modern Sentimental Subject and Her Affective Spheres

Sigrist, Clare (2020) Uneasy Fellowships: The Modern Sentimental Subject and Her Affective Spheres. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Uneasy Fellowships comprehends the novel through Émile Durkheim’s insight that “any communion of consciousness, in whatever form it takes place, enhances social vitality.” Reaching back to the complex eighteenth-century intellectual history of sentimental writing and theory, and closely analyzing key texts of the Harlem Renaissance and then recent religious fiction, Uneasy Fellowships offers a history of sentimental form that ponders its creative vision.

Early sentimentalism summoned a certain reading practice—shaping readers who are moved by emotion, but not caught in its thrall. Harlem Renaissance novelists, negotiating sentimental inheritance, enacted a renewal that reclaimed this older readerly temperament. The modern sentimental subject emerges from their creative, critical investments. Chapter one explores sentimentalism and affect theory for the different tools they offer this subject. The modern sentimental subject grasps sentimental political storytelling’s power to supply relief, whether financial or social. A quick study, she wields affective agency with skill. This agency does not necessarily grant her the comfort of self-assuredness, nor lead to self-awareness of the kind sentimental reflection imparts.

Chapter two applies these distinctions to Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, reading its protagonist’s submission as a triumphant move to self-actualize—a brave choice to respond to sentimental feeling. Chapter three analyzes the entwined relation between the emotional and the economic by exploring Claude McKay’s allusion to the Caribbean coffee crisis of the 1830s in Banana Bottom. By privileging Stoic principles in his protagonist’s journey towards self-mastery, McKay shows how introspection assures her voyage into community.

Chapter four discusses Marilynne Robinson’s novels in relation to her essays. By imagining what it might mean to be a Good Samaritan or embrace a Prodigal Son, her writing works to replace a broken parable of American exceptionalism. Through visionary tableau, Robinson offers a more expansive Christian ethic many in her audience find rousing, especially as an alternative to evangelical conservativism.
By reframing the sentimental, Uneasy Fellowships opens up new perspectives on old antagonisms. Proposing a more dialogic than oppositional view, it follows a literary current through intellectual history: sentimentalism arose in the British eighteenth century along with the novel, an artform that achieves fully dialogic presence.


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Details

Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
Creators/Authors:
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sigrist, Clarecms200@pitt.educms2000000-0002-0925-7537
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairArac, Jonathanjarac@pitt.edujar
Committee MemberGlazener, Nancyglazener@pitt.eduGlazener
Committee MemberPuri, Shalinispuri@pitt.eduspuri
Committee MemberMecchia, Giuseppinamecchia@pitt.edumecchia
Date: 16 September 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 May 2020
Approval Date: 16 September 2020
Submission Date: 12 July 2020
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 371
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: fellow feeling, sentimentalism, affect theory, Harlem Renaissance, modern American literature, contemporary American literature, religious literature, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Marilynne Robinson, Adam Smith, Irving Babbitt
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2020 15:02
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2020 15:02
URI: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/id/eprint/39486

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