Sex and Sensibility in the Eighteenth-Century Novel, NeMLA 2013, September 30 deadline

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Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) 44th Annual Convention, Boston, March 21-24, 2013
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This panel will explore the intersections of sensibility and sexuality in the eighteenth-century novel: how the expression of each became contingent on the other and often complicated the emerging gender norms. Within the culture of sensibility, women were assumed to be naturally more "impressionable," that is, their nerves and thoughts were supposed to be more susceptible to external stimuli. Although sensibility was idealized as a natural and desirable feminine quality (women were, after all, responsible for the emotional quality of family life), it nonetheless could become a threat if it led to illicit desires and erotic passions, which it inevitably did - at least in the literary imagination. Sensibility also complicated notions of masculinity since men - specifically, the rakish and sexually aggressive side of men - were targeted by the cult of sensibility's reformation of manners but a man of too much sensibility was derided as effeminate. Papers examining any aspect of the cult of sensibility and its relation to depictions of sex (in both senses of the term) in the eighteenth-century novel are welcome. Please send abstracts of 250-300 words to Kristine Jennings at by September 30.

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