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The Sentimental Touch:The Language of Feeling in the Age of Managerialism

The Language of Feeling in the Age of Managerialism

Aaron Ritzenberg

Publication Year: 2012

Between 1850 and 1940, with the rise of managerial capitalism in the United States, the most powerful businesses ceased to be family owned, instead becoming sprawling organizations controlled by complex bureaucracies. Sentimental literature--work written specifically to convey and inspire deep feeling--does not seem to fit with a swiftly bureaucratizing society. Surprisingly, though, sentimental language persisted in American literature, even as a culture of managed systems threatened to obscure the power of individual affect. The Sentimental Touch explores the strange, enduring power of sentimental language in the face of a rapidly changing culture. Analyzing novels by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, and Nathanael West, the book demonstrates that sentimental language changes but remains powerful, even in works by authors who self-consciously write against the sentimental tradition. Sentimental language has an afterlife, enduring in American literature long after authors and critics declared it dead, insisting that human feeling can resist a mechanizing culture and embodying, paradoxically, the way that literary conventions themselves become mechanical and systematic.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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p. ix

It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the many people who helped me write this book. Caren Irr, my dissertation adviser at Brandeis University, helped me shape this project from its earliest stages and has been a brilliant, generous mentor. I am grateful to Michael T. Gilmore for reading my work carefully...

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pp. 1-15

The most poignant moments in Uncle Tom’s Cabinare moments of touch. When characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel experience profound emotions, they are silent, but they are able to share their feelings through bodily contact. With a sentimental touch, characters and readers alike imagine...

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1 / Touching the Body, Training the Reader

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pp. 16-41

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is centrally concerned with the human body. Indeed, any novel about slavery—about the buying, selling, and controlling of the body—will be fundamentally interested in the relationships between physical bodies. Stowe writes that at a slave auction, the trader Haley “forced...

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2 /Managing Sentimentalism in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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pp. 42-69

In the final paragraph of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck tells us that Tom has recovered from being shot in the leg during the escape: “Tom’s most well, now, and got his bullet around his neck on a watch-guard for a watch, and is always seeing what time it is.”1 Tom’s wishes seem to have come true: his...

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3 /Holding On to the Sentimentalin Winesburg, Ohio

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pp. 70-92

Winesburg, Ohio, fittingly subtitled A Group of Tales of Ohio Small Town Life, does not offer a sustained, conventional plot; there is no single unifying narrative. The sudden shifts and starts that mark the movement from one tale to the next show how Anderson self-consciously sets his text against the novel for...

4 /A Touch of Miss Lonelyhearts

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pp. 93-118


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pp. 119-128


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pp. 129-156


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pp. 157-172


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pp. 173-179

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250387
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823245529
Print-ISBN-10: 0823245527

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text

OCLC Number: 830023528
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Sentimental Touch:The Language of Feeling in the Age of Managerialism

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Emotions in literature.
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