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James Noggle
Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA 02481-8203)
Not Feeling the Power of Sensibility: British Literature in the 18th Century

The word "insensibly" recurs with peculiar readiness and regularity in British prose of the age of sensibility, the mid-eighteenth century. Such usages depict not obstacles to strong feeling but rather the unnoticed ways strong feeling comes to be, and are only one of many ways the period's writing evokes processes opaque to consciousness. This book will explore these secrets for the first time. Copiously used words such as "insensibly" and "imperceptibly," phrases noting how we may be "secretly conscious to ourselves" of matters crucial to us, refer not to states of affective lack but to the hidden production of affect, the way it mounts and alters without being felt itself. By analyzing the motif of unfelt affect in fiction, historiography, philosophy, and periodical literature, this book will explore the period's unique understanding of unconscious sexual, social, and ideological impulses and offer a new account of sensibility and its hidden undercurrents.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
British Literature; Intellectual History

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2014 – 7/31/2015