Feeling Subjects: Sensibility's Mobius Strip and the Public-Private Subject in Later Eighteenth-Century British Fiction

  • Author / Creator
    McNeill-Bindon, Susan Colleen
  • Feeling Subjects investigates sensibility in relation to the production of subjectivity in the later eighteenth century. It creates a model of sensibility as a discursive space bringing together literary, philosophical, and medical understandings of feeling. It argues that sensibility’s discursive space produces experiential subjects in an ongoing, dynamic project of negotiating between the internalization of public experiences and the projection of private feelings and thoughts. It invokes the three-dimensional image of the Möbius strip to envision inner/private and external/public expressions of feeling as inseparable, yet distinct elements that help to produce the feeling subject. This model of sensibility represents a new theory of subjectivity in the later eighteenth-century where the literary subject and the social community that surrounds him or her are both co-constitutive and co-destructive and where the traditional binaries are challenged in a model that sees every character as simultaneously a public and private subject. The aim of the project is to show that the legacies of rational men and emotional women which have occupied scholars of the eighteenth century for much of the last fifty years suggest a much more cohesive understanding of gender and its connection to subjectivity than is revealed in much of the fiction of sensibility in the period. Feeling Subjects offers a theory of sensibility that is not inherently gendered, and that focuses on how individuals experience themselves in relation to the world around them while simultaneously generating that world. The project is divided into two halves which enact the Möbius model of private and public feeling. The first half focuses on the personally and socially productive potential of sensibility in The Adventures of David Simple, The History of Ophelia, The Vicar of Wakefield, and The Fool of Quality. The second half examines the increasingly negative expression of sensibility in A Simple Story, Secresy, The Natural Daughter, and Zofloya. Throughout Feeling Subjects, sensibility is not just a word denoting the expression of feeling, but a discursive space through which to experience the tensions and interrelations between public and private thought and feeling in theories of socialization in the later eighteenth-century novel.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Binhammer, Katherine (English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Schmitter, Amy (Philosophy)
    • Demers, Patricia (English and Film Studies)
    • Oakleaf, David (English, University of Calgary)
    • Kelly, Gary (English and Film Studies