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.
About 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.
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