Sentiment and the Anti-Sentimental in 20th and 21st Century America

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Edited Collection
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We are seeking additional essays for this collection, which is slated to be released by McFarland in 2014. The collection features essays that examine how authors of the 20th and 21st centuries 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 20th and 21st 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. As such, this collection explores questions such as: 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 and 21st centuries?

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 and/or 21st century to address issues of race and and/or national belonging: In what ways do 20th and/or 21st century authors strategically deploy modes of sentimentality in their writings? How do 20th and/or 21st century cultural trends or critical understandings regarding race and class alter portrayals of sentimentality?

Please submit a 1-2 page abstract on or before 2/1/2013 to co-editor Jennifer Larson: jlarson(at) Decisions will be made by 2/8/2013. Final essays (6,000-7,000 words; MLA formatted) will be due 3/1/2013.