Scholars often read the sentimental romance as a democratizing genre in which marginalized subjects, excluded by their gender or race, can make their feelings and voices heard in the public sphere. Lilley's essay complicates this approach by identifying mutual aesthetic processes of inclusion and exception that enable these feelings to be collected by the sentimental community. He argues that while Mackenzie's work promotes the public principles of sympathy and affection, it also mourns the ruin of utterly private feeling that such publicity entails. Rather than simply championing liberal ideas of freedom, charity, and public equality, the sentimental romance secretly longs for the prestige of singular and private differences that have been ruined by, and excluded from, this new political community and its concepts of universal feelings and rights. By examining how this erotics of private ruin fragments heterosexual desire and stains the body with the fateful force of race, Lilley shows how the aesthetics of sentimental romance inflects the formal structure of our modern systems of identity and belonging.


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pp. 649-666
Launched on MUSE
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