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Love's Whipping BoyViolence and Sentimentality in the American Imagination$
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Elizabeth Barnes

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834565

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807877968_barnes

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(p.1) Introduction
Love's Whipping Boy

Elizabeth Barnes

University of North Carolina Press

This book begins by discussing how scholars of nineteenth-century U.S. literature have wrestled with the problems and possibilities presented by American sentimental culture. Alternately scorned as a superficial and hypocritical cure-all for social injustices and lauded as a radical intervention into the self-interested aims of capitalist culture, sentimentalism has evaded our attempts to pin down its particular use in U.S. society. The author believes this is in part because sentimental narratives tend to work both toward and against an ideal vision of democratic community. In their invocation of empathy for others, nineteenth-century sentimental texts posit the potential for breaking down hierarchical structures to acknowledge the core suffering that all human beings, regardless of rank or position, share.

Keywords:   U.S. literature, American sentimental culture, hypocritical cure-all, social injustices, radical intervention, capitalist culture, sentimentalism

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