All entries for Monday 10 October 2011

October 10, 2011

Anna Letitia Barbauld 'An Enquiry into those Kinds of Distress which Excite agreeable Sensations'

Writing about web page

As William McCarthy writes: 'The subject of [Anna Letitia Barbauld's] essay-- the fact that people enjoy fictional representations of pain and suffering-- is as old as Aristotle's Poetics. It was made newly current in the mid-eighteenth century by the development of what G.J Barker-Benfield has called "the culture of sensibility", a taste for intense emotional response to experience and for theorizing emotional response to quasi-scientific terms'.1

Even at the height of its popularity, the sentimental novel evidently made some readers uneasy. ALB criticised 'sentimentalism's tendency to indulge readers' feelings of moral correctness while doing little to challenge the conditions under which its pitiable characters live.'2 She warns of the dangers of dulling readers' concerns about 'real-world suffering through the experience of repeatedly having "sensibility... strongly called forth [in writings picturing distress] without any possibility of exerting itself in virtuous action... Nothing is more dangerous... at length the mind grows absolutely callous"'.3


1 William McCarthy, Anna Letitia Barbauld: Selected Poetry and Prose (Ont; Canada: Broadview, 2002), p.195

2 Introduction to the Man of Feeling, ed. by Maureen Harkin. Google books. p.21

3 Harkin, p.21f

October 2011

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
|  Today  | Nov
               1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Search this blog

Blog archive

Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder