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Sensibility, enlightenment and Romanticism: British fiction, 1789 - 1820

Lloyd, Nicola 2013. Sensibility, enlightenment and Romanticism: British fiction, 1789 - 1820. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis is a study of the discourse of sensibility in Romantic-period fiction. It suggests that sensibility was not, as has often been assumed, merely a transient and fashionable mode that peaked in the mid eighteenth-century before its association with radicalism and subsequent demise in the 1790s. Instead, it was redirected and refashioned during the first decades of the nineteenth century, functioning in effect as a metanarrative for the Romantic novel. The discourse of sensibility was both a formative influence on and a central ideological component of literary Romanticism and this thesis reads it as a creative, protean and self-conscious force that is capable of challenging many of our assumptions about the Romantic period. Analysing representative fictions by Ann Radcliffe, Charlotte Dacre, William Godwin, Sydney Owenson and Walter Scott, each chapter traces the complex interactions of eighteenth-century discourses of moral philosophy and perception in the sub-genres of the gothic novel, the Jacobin novel, the national tale and historical fiction. In doing so, the evidence of sensibility’s pervasive influence destabilises any notion of discrete and fixed generic categories by suggesting widespread correlations and overlaps. Likewise, this generic assimilation and mutation that operates under the banner of sensibility proposes a challenge to conventional notions of Romantic aesthetic unity and spontaneity, suggesting instead a self-conscious and experimental engagement with genre. Finally, the novels considered depict a hybrid model of sensibility in which Enlightenment formations of feeling and perception as a means of social coherence coexist with Romantic models of alienated selfhood. As a result, the exploration of the discourse of sensibility in the Romantic novel provides an opportunity to reassess the complex and often contradictory relationship between the aesthetics of Enlightenment and Romanticism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2017 12:16

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