Ruined by Design: Shaping Novels and Gardens in the Culture of Sensibility

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By examining the motif of ruination in a variety of late-eighteenth-century domains, this book portrays the moral aesthetic of the culture of sensibility in Europe, particularly its negotiation of the demands of tradition and pragmatism alongside utopian longings for authenticity, natural goodness, self-governance, mutual transparency, and instantaneous kinship. This book argues that the rhetoric of ruins lends a distinctive shape to the architecture and literature of the time and requires the novel to adjust notions of authorship and narrative to accommodate the prevailing aesthetic. Just as architects of eighteenth-century follies pretend to have discovered "authentic" ruins, novelists within the culture of sensibility also build purposely fragmented texts and disguise their authorship, invoking highly artificial means of simulating nature. The cultural pursuit of human ruin, however, leads to hypocritical and sadistic extremes that put an end to the characteristic ambivalence of sensibility and its unusual structures.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
2009 Winner of the SAMLA Studies Award

"Ruined by Design provides a brilliant analysis of the philosophical shift from reason and order toward imagination and feeling in both landscape innovations and literary experimentation during the eighteenth century."

-Laurie Kaplan, George Washington University

“Inger Brodey's ambitiously cross-disciplinary study of artful ruins, mainly in gardens and in novels, offers insights that should delight and edify readers with a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Very few studies that I know so successfully make sense of sensibility.”

-Peter Graham, Clifford Cutchins Professor of English, Virginia Tech

“Inger Brodey has written a book of remarkable vitality about the fascination with ruins across eighteenth-century Europe. The book is both interdisciplinary and international. Instead of focusing on a single field like poetry, painting, or garden design in isolation, she uncovers their shared penchant for fragmentation which defines the culture of sensibility. Few authors writing on the fashion of ruins have penetrated this well-known phenomenon so deeply and intelligently.”

-Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Professor, University of Chicago

"Ruined by Design is remarkable for the breadth and depth of its analysis as well as for the clarity and precision of its language."

-Susan Allen Ford, Professor of English at Delta State University

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Product Details

Meet the Author

An award-winning teacher and essayist, Dr. Brodey is Assistant Professor in English and Comparative Literature and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has published extensively on Jane Austen, Laurence Sterne, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Preromanticism, and the Culture of Sensibility.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures



Introduction: Sensibility and its Discontents

Chapter One: Redeeming Ruin

Chapter Two: The Anatomy of Follies

Chapter Three: Reading Ruin

Chapter Four: Constructing Human Ruin

Afterword: The Luxuries of Distress



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