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Title: Voluntary death in the eighteenth-century sentimental tradition
Author: Sulich, Rachel Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 6421 1384
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis questions the assumption that eighteenth-century sensibility is inherently social in orientation. Recent criticism, by Janet Todd, John Dwyer, Sarah Knott and others, has stressed how the heightened emotional responses of sensibility are invariably outward-facing and, to borrow a term from Knott, ‘socially-turned’. My research uncovers a more troubled strand of sentimentalism. By examining a more anxious body of writing, which I term ‘the sentimental tradition’, this thesis argues that the literature of sensibility is more inwardly-turned, more concerned with inner turmoil and self-doubt, than has been critically assumed. The social behaviours that form the ‘culture of sensibility’, as described by G.J. Barker-Benfield and others, assume an altogether darker hue in this tradition where acute emotions often have fatal consequences. This study considers a particular manifestation of sentimental subjectivity where figures often ‘tremble’, in the words of Goethe, ‘on the edge of being and not-being’. These fractured, troubled selves are at risk of further discomposure by the act of voluntary death: an act that proves crucial to understandings of this tradition. To argue this case, a broad range of fictional and non-fictional texts of the period, including works by David Hume, Samuel Richardson, William Godwin and Charles Moore, among others, have been consulted. By adopting, revising or challenging the recognisable tropes of sentimentalism, these writers offer conflicting insights into the sentimental subject’s inherent destructibility and, in so doing, reveal sensibility’s fatal agency in literature of the eighteenth century.
Supervisor: Jones, Robert W. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available