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Feeling Things: The Novel Objectives of Sentimental Objects

From: The Eighteenth Century
Volume 54, Number 2, Summer 2013
pp. 183-193 | 10.1353/ecy.2013.0017



By treating eighteenth-century it-narratives as self-conscious miscellanies of newly established literary conventions and by focusing on their scenes of sensory defamiliarization, this essay suggests that it-narratives function as more than just critiques of mass consumption in the literary marketplace. Rather, it-narratives ironically foreground depictions of the five senses, especially touch, as a means to theorize how the rise of realist fiction ushered in a dramatic epistemological shift. Specifically, when read in the context of philosophical works by John Locke and David Hartley, it-narratives emerge as sophisticated meditations on the ways fiction’s pretensions to verisimilitude threatened to refashion readers’ sensual and empirical engagement with the world around them.

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