Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Lisa Ann Robertson
This project focuses on late eighteenth-century literature of sentiment, specifically examining the man and woman of feeling characters in The Adventures of David Simple (1744) and Volume the Last (1753), both written by Sarah Fielding, The Man of Feeling (1771), written by Henry Mackenzie, The Power of Sympathy (1789) by William Hill Brown, and The Coquette (1797), by Hannah Webster Foster. I use the following terms to analyze these texts: sensibility functions as the ability to feel great emotion, emotionally and physically; sympathy is the ability to connect with another with emotions, and sentiment is tempered emotion based in morality and reason. By applying these nuanced definitions, I work to trace how the differences in the man and women of feeling representations argue for sentiment, for individuals to temper their feelings with what Adam Smith termed self-command. In short, the man of feeling cannot function successfully in society. The British man of feeling experiences isolation due to his heightened sensibility. Though these emotions do lead to meaningful sympathies, these connections are few. The man of feeling's virtue is the exception to society as opposed to the rule. In American literature, the man of feeling loses the morality of his feeling. His heightened sensibility leads to a weaponization of sympathy, making the man of feeling synonymous with a libertine. For America, the man of feeling must be ejected from society. I explore the representation of the woman of feeling by my female authors, Fielding and Foster. These authors present the woman of feeling as the ideal model. The trope either helps exalt the virtues of the men of feeling or provides characters who model eighteenth-century’s ideal woman. This woman graciously accepts marriage and family as a virtuous duty. In either case, the women of feeling argue against the woman who feels too much, a character who becomes so consumed by her own emotion she cannot fulfill her necessary role in society. These authors all argue for emotional conformity, showing sentiment should be the standard, embracing Smith's argument that virtue becomes a vice when it exists at an extreme.
English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Literature in English, North America
18th Century Literature, Man of Feeling, Sentimental Literature, Woman of Feeling
Number of Pages
University of South Dakota
Liebsack, Miranda Anne, "Deadly Emotions: The Argument for Tempered Feeling in British and American Literature of Sentiment" (2023). Dissertations and Theses. 159.