Right Feelings: On Sentimentality, Philosophy, and Religion in Harriet Beecher Stowe
CitationHowe, Amy Rae. 2018. Right Feelings: On Sentimentality, Philosophy, and Religion in Harriet Beecher Stowe. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractHarriet Beecher Stowe provides one of antebellum American culture’s most significant lettered intellectual accounts of the development of morally persuasive literature in the cause of anti-slavery. This dissertation explores the philosophical and religious resources that shape Stowe’s literary aim of cultivating the “right feelings” among her readers. By looking to the moral contours of Stowe’s published and unpublished writing, I argue that feelings are not exercised merely for the pathos of experience in Stowe’s novels and correspondence, but are understood as dynamic and cultivable, central to the formation of moral judgment, and intended to lead to humanitarian action. Here, Stowe follows in a Scottish Enlightenment and faculty psychology tradition that aims to cultivate the moral sensibilities of the modern, liberal subject. However, as this dissertation argues, Stowe’s invocation of “right feelings” cannot be understood apart from racial and imperial structures of power. The affective terrain of sentimentality and the cultivation of sympathy and “right feelings,” for Stowe, is the cultivation of Anglo-American sympathy that will hopefully remediate the problem of slavery and liberty. In the spaces of character sketch, family correspondence, and transatlantic literary gift exchange, this dissertation traces the contexts and limits for the cultivation of sympathy and “right feelings,” as told through Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictive and nonfictive moral universe. In scope, this dissertation attends iii to the Stowe corpus of correspondence and literature at the height of her career and literary acclaim between 1851 and 1859, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Sunny Memories in Foreign Lands (1854), Dred (1856), and The Minister’s Wooing (1859). The dissertation contributes to scholarship on the role of religion and sentimentality in nineteenth-century American culture.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129157
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