Edited Collection: 20th Century Sentimentalism: From Modernism to Media

full name / name of organization: 
Jenn Williamson
contact email: 

This collection will feature essays that examine how authors of the twentieth and twenty-first century continue the use of sentimental forms and tropes of nineteenth-century literature. Current literary and cultural criticism maintains that American culture engaged in a turn-of-the-century refutation of the sentimental mode; however, the analysis of twentieth- and twenty-first-century narratives contained within these essays reveals ongoing use of sentimental expression that draws upon its ability to instruct and influence readers through emotional identification.

This more recent sentimentalism, however, operates in a supposedly “anti-sentimental” age—one that rejects the sentimental as feminized and embraces what may appear to be more masculine modes of naturalism, realism, and modernism. While these later narratives employ aspects of the sentimental mode, many of them also engage in a critique of the failures of the sentimental, deconstructing nineteenth century perspectives on race, class, and gender and the ways they are promoted by sentimental ideals.

With the turn of the century and the rising influence of naturalism, modernism, and New Criticism, scholars have generally believed that authors no longer respect or employ sentimentalism as a literary method. Recent scholarship has renewed interest in 20th century sentimentalism, examining the close ties between modernism and sentimentalism.

• Given sentimentalism’s highly heteronormative, heavily binaried portrayals of men and women, how do authors utilize sentimentalism to address issues of gender and sexuality in the new century?
• The sentimental novel was associated with fetishizing and creating the middle class, so how do authors use sentimentalism to discuss issues of class in the 20th century?
• Because of its historical and cultural associations with white identity, the editors particularly invite essays examining uses of sympathy and sentimental forms in the 20th century to address issues of race and and/or national belonging. In what ways do 20th century authors strategically deploy modes of sentimentality in their writings?
• How do 20th century cultural trends or critical understandings regarding race and class alter portrayals of sentimentality?

The editors invite articles (approximately 6,000 words) that respond to the focus of the volume. Submissions may address topics such as:

• modernism
• queerness/sexuality
• media/culture
• film
• class
• race
• nationalism
• postcolonialism
• medicine/the body

General inquires and article abstracts should be submitted by 30 June 2011 to Jenn Williamson at jwilliamson@unc.edu, while completed essays must be submitted by 30 September 2011, following MLA formatting guideline

cfp categories: 
modernist studies