Scrupulous Sincerity: Susanna Rowson's Sentimental and Gothic Turns

Scrupulous Sincerity: Susanna Rowson's Sentimental and Gothic Turns University of Kentucky usanna Rowson's sentimental tale of Sarah Darnley frequently takes a gothic turn. For much of the novel, the trembling, innocent victim wends her way through scenes of torment and lurking violence--a plot brimming in works of sentimental and gothic fiction alike.1 Extreme suffering has long been established as a point of connection between the sentimental and the gothic, as has their shared focus on the affective work of fiction.2 One common pattern of criticism views the gothic genre as a critique of sentimental fiction's emotional extravagance, awarding it the self-conscious role of assessing the mechanisms and effects of sentimental discourse.3 Another pattern regards the gothic as a constitutive, often concealed, element of sentimental literature itself. In the words of Julia Stern, late-eighteenth-century sentimental and gothic modes "exist in hierarchical relation, like geological strata, the gothic bedrock masked by a sentimental topsoil" (8­9). From this perspective, the gothic--its preoccupation with violence, brutality, and rage--supplies the foundational ingredients for the sentimental's investments in sympathy, benevolence, and other moral feelings. While both formulations have merit, they implicitly grant the gothic greater perspicacity or critical legitimacy than the sentimental.4 Rather than continue to place the gothic in the privileged http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers University of Nebraska Press

Scrupulous Sincerity: Susanna Rowson's Sentimental and Gothic Turns

Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, Volume 34 (1) – Jun 20, 2017

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The University of Nebraska Press.
ISSN
1534-0643
Publisher site
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Abstract

University of Kentucky usanna Rowson's sentimental tale of Sarah Darnley frequently takes a gothic turn. For much of the novel, the trembling, innocent victim wends her way through scenes of torment and lurking violence--a plot brimming in works of sentimental and gothic fiction alike.1 Extreme suffering has long been established as a point of connection between the sentimental and the gothic, as has their shared focus on the affective work of fiction.2 One common pattern of criticism views the gothic genre as a critique of sentimental fiction's emotional extravagance, awarding it the self-conscious role of assessing the mechanisms and effects of sentimental discourse.3 Another pattern regards the gothic as a constitutive, often concealed, element of sentimental literature itself. In the words of Julia Stern, late-eighteenth-century sentimental and gothic modes "exist in hierarchical relation, like geological strata, the gothic bedrock masked by a sentimental topsoil" (8­9). From this perspective, the gothic--its preoccupation with violence, brutality, and rage--supplies the foundational ingredients for the sentimental's investments in sympathy, benevolence, and other moral feelings. While both formulations have merit, they implicitly grant the gothic greater perspicacity or critical legitimacy than the sentimental.4 Rather than continue to place the gothic in the privileged

Journal

Legacy: A Journal of American Women WritersUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Jun 20, 2017

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