Sensibility, Sincerity, and Self-Interest in Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde

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Abstract

This essay argues that Charlotte Smith’s little studied novel, “Ethelinde,” presents sensibility in a way which complicates the opposition between virtuous and corrupt femininity. In this text, Smith breaks down the association of sincerity of feeling with virtue by showing how authentic emotions could be managed for self-interested purposes. Sensibility in “Ethelinde,” therefore, exceeds the logic of sentimentality. I historicize this self-interested function of feeling in relation to the work of Gillian Skinner and Harriet Guest, who argue that the emergence of political economy inflected discourses of feminine feeling with the language of commerce. At the same time, I demonstrate that Smith’s
mobilization of sensibility represents a proto-feminist intervention into the
patriarchal order, participating in the ideological agenda that Diane Hoeveler
has identified in women’s gothic literature. Smith’s presentation of feeling as
a possible mode of agency for women is, however, deeply conflicted, and I
suggest this might be due to the author’s real-life battles with patriarchal law.
In order to theorize the ambiguous status of sensibility in the text, I engage
with Arlie Hoschild’s twentieth-century theory of emotion, which allows an
articulation feeling in terms that move beyond the familiar constructions of
feminine virtue and vice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-357
Number of pages16
JournalWomen's Writing
Volume26
Issue number3
Early online date26 Jul 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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emotion
femininity
commerce
political economy
opposition
twentieth century
Law
discourse
language
Sensibility
Sincerity
literature
Emotion

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Women's Writing on 26th July 2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/09699082.2017.1355513


Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

Cite this

Sensibility, Sincerity, and Self-Interest in Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde. / Morrissey, Joe.

In: Women's Writing, Vol. 26, No. 3, 2019, p. 342-357.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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