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a literary and artistic movement that emerged in Western Europe and Russia in the second half of the 18th century, in response to the crisis of Enlightenment rationalism.

Sentimentalism received its fullest expression in Great Britain, where the ideology of the third estate, as well as its internal contradictions, first appeared. According to the sentimentalists, the dominant chord of human nature is feeling, and not reason, which is compromised by bourgeois practices. Sentimentalism did not break completely with the Enlightment but remained loyal to the ideal of a normative personality, establishing as the precondition for its development not a rational restructuring of the world but the liberation and perfection of “natural” feelings. In sentimental literature of the Enlightenment the hero is more individualized, and his inner world is enriched by his ability to empathize and to respond sensitively to what is going on around him. By origin or conviction, the sentimental hero is a democrat. The rich inner world of the common man was one of the chief discoveries and triumphs of sentimentalism.

Sentimental motifs (the natural idyll and melancholy contemplation, for example) first appeared in the poetry of J. Thomson (The Seasons, 1730), E. Young (Night Thoughts, 1742–45), and T. Gray (Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, 1751). An elegiac tone and patriarchal idealization are inseparable in sentimentalist poetry. A concrete social reflection of the village theme is found only in the poetry of the late sentimentalists of the 1770’s and 1780’s, such as O. Goldsmith, W. Cowper, and G. Crabbe, who allude to the impoverishment of the peasant masses and to deserted villages. Sentimental motifs are found in the psychological novels of S. Richardson and the later works of H. Fielding (Amelia, 1752). However, sentimentalism attained its ultimate form in the works of L. Sterne, whose unfinished Sentimental Journey (1768) gave the sentimentalist movement its name. Like D. Hume, Sterne showed that men are not “identical” but are capable of being different.

In contrast to preromanticism, a parallel movement, sentimentalism rejected the irrational. Contradictory moods and emotional impulses were subjected to rationalistic interpretation by sentimentalism, which found the dialectic of the soul comprehensible. The main features of British sentimentalism, as represented by Goldsmith, the later works of Smollett, and H. Mackenzie, are an emotional sensitivity that is not without exaggeration, as well as irony and humor that permit a parodic deflation of the Enlightenment canon and simultaneously a skeptical attitude toward the possibilities of sentimentalism. (The last is characteristic of Sterne’s works, for example.)

European cultural interchange and the typological similarity in the development of European literatures resulted in a precipitous spread of sentimentalism (in France, the psychological novels of P. de Marivaux and the Abbé Prevost, Diderot’s bourgeois dramas, and Beaumarchais’s The Guilty Mother, and in Germany, C. F. Gellert’s “serious comedy” and F. G. Klopstock’s rational sentimental poetry). Not unexpectedly, the democratic currents in sentimentalism were most radically expressed in Germany (the Sturm und Drang movement) and, to an even greater degree, in France (Rousseau). The peak of European sentimentalism is Rousseau’s creative work (Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse, 1761). In the Confessions, Rousseau presented a sentimentalist hero determined by the social environment. Later, Goethe did the same in Werther. Diderot’s sentimentalist heroes are also placed in a social context (Jacques the Fatalist and Rameau’s Nephew). G. E. Lessing’s dramaturgy developed under the influence of sentimentalism. At the same time, a wave of open imitations of Sterne swept over French and German literature.

Among the Russian representatives of sentimentalism were M. N. Murav’ev, N. M. Karamzin (Poor Liza, 1792), I.I. Dmitriev, V. V. Kapnist, N. A. L’vov, and the young V. A. Zhukovskii. Focusing primarily on the world of the upper classes, Russian sentimentalism was, to a significant degree, rationalistic and highly didactic (for example, Karamzin’s Letters of a Russian Traveler, part 1, 1792). The Enlightenment currents in sentimentalism were more important in Russia than in Western Europe. Russian sentimentalist writers polished the literary language and introduced conversational norms and colloquialisms. Scholars have found indisputable features of sentimentalist poetics in the creative work of A. N. Radishchev.

The literary genres of sentimentalism included the elegy, the letter, the epistolary novel, travel notes, diaries, and other prose forms in which the “confessional motif is prominent. In sentimentalist literature, openness verging on self-exposure resulted in an extraordinary increase in interest in the writer’s personality. Sometimes the writer became the “hero” of biographical legends. The aspect of the writer’s creative individuality became fundamental in the aesthetics of romanticism.


In the theater sentimentalism developed through a struggle against the artificial conventions of courtly classical theater. As a result of the cult of feelings and the heightened interest in man’s inner world that characterized sentimentalism, the rigid classical deportment and artificial declamatory manner of verse recitation were rejected. The new repertoire required the actor to develop natural deportment, to develop a character, and to convey the intonations of emotional, conversational speech. Staging and design changed, with the standard “palace” decorations giving way to more realistic decor and traditional costumes to more modern clothing. A specific type of makeup was also introduced. All of these changes led to an increase in realistic tendencies in acting, manifested in varying degrees in the art of the outstanding actors of the second half of the 18th century, including D. Garrick (Great Britain) and F. L. Schroder and J. F. Brockmann (Germany). In the Russian theater sentimentalism influenced the acting of A. D. Karatygina, la. E. Shusherin, and V. P. Pomerantsev.



Problemy Prosveshcheniia v mirovoi literature. Moscow, 1970.
Blagoi, D. D. Istoriia russkoi literatury XVIII v., 4th ed. Moscow, 1960.
Tronskaia, M. L. Nemetskii sentimental’no-iumoristicheskii roman epokhi Prosveshcheniia. Leningrad, 1965.
Elistratova, A. A. Angliiskii roman epokhi Prosveshcheniia. Moscow, 1966.
Fitzgerald, M. First Follow Nature. New York, 1947.
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Aseev, B. N. Russkii dramaticheskii teatr XVII-XVIII vekov. Moscow, 1958.
References in periodicals archive ?
Volumes like Sentimental Men (1999) or Sentimentalism in Nineteenth-Century America (2013) have furthered conversation on the role of sentimental literary strategies in works long believed to be free of such "faults"--namely those by the white, male authors of the American Renaissance that F.O.
And to an unthinking society, killing the weakest and most vulnerable becomes an acceptable practice justified by a lack of "stupidly cruel sentimentalism."
I argue here that because Hawthorne was suspicious of the power of sentimentalism, yet felt pressured by the market to resort to it, he offsets it with humor in The House of the Seven Gables.
De Jong writes in her introduction to Sentimentalism in Nineteenth-Century America: Literary and Cultural Practices, "nineteenth-century sentimentalism is not [...] easily pinned down" (1)--and for good reason.
Like her Southern literary contemporaries, including Truman Capote and Harper Lee, McCullers demonstrates how sentimentalism often crystallizes around the figure of the sympathetic queer child.
He urged the people of the country to avoid sentimentalism and try to understand the agenda of the western countries.
Deftly balancing restrained sentimentalism with human tragedy, this impressive feature debut by TV helmer James Kent has the populist heft one expects from producer David Heyman, while preserving the solemn intimacy of Brittain's account of lives and loves severed by the conflict.
Sentimentalism aside, let's be honest and look at the merits and demerits of the jobs plea to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and the aviation industry as brought forth by a distressed citizen.
Some managed to subvert the expected sentimentalism and moralism of "romans de femmes" or the related exigencies of "libraires d'education"; others conformed and ended up ghettoized in a "prison doree" (Sgard).
By contrast, Feilla's analysis of the plays is literary before it is political (though the two are not mutually exclusive); she aims to reconstruct the aesthetic principles and assumptions of Revolutionary theater, particularly as they relate to eighteenth-century sentimentalism. This unique approach finds an echo in the other key innovation of Feilla's book--the corpus of plays she studies.
His topics include from enlightenment to sentimentalism 1770-1825, realism 1860-90, all the colors of the rainbow 1918-32, under the wise leadership of the party and fatherly care of Comrade Stalin 1941-53, a thaw in the world of children 1954-68, and perestroika reaches children's literature 1986-91.
As someone who came to England from abroad and went to school here, I find that the hymn 'Jerusalem' or a quintessentially English novel like Brideshead Revisited nowadays trigger in me the same sort of sentimentalism and nostalgia that a British-born person might feel.