Sentimentalism, as opposed to sensitivity, was a vogue in both poetry and prose fiction that began in the eighteenth century as a reaction against the Augustan Age's rationality. Sentimental novels focus on readers' and characters' emotional responses. They tend to be highly descriptive and rely on dialogue for exposition.
As a term, "sentimental" has negative connotations today, but it originally meant "tending to produce or express emotion," such as "a work of sentiment." The adjective form "sentimentalist" is used to describe someone who writes about emotions.
Sentimental literature is so named because it focuses on feelings and expresses them through description and narrative. As a result, this type of writing tends to be very subjective and reliant on the reader's understanding of the characters.
The term "sentimentalism" was first used by Samuel Johnson in his famous criticism of Shakespeare's plays, where he called them "a kind of writing which requires much feeling and expresses little reason." He also said they were popular with "the lower sort of people," which some have taken to mean that they wrote about their own feelings and didn't care if anyone else did too.
Johnson's remarks set the stage for later critics who disagreed with his assessment of Shakespeare's works.
Sentimentalism has many literary manifestations, including sentimental poetry, the sentimental novel, and the German sentimentalist music movement, Empfindsamkeit. European literary sentimentalism originated during the Age of Enlightenment, largely in response to philosophical sentimentalism. This older tradition is represented by figures such as Charles-Marie de La Condé and François-Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.
The modern genre of the romantic love story is closely associated with sentimentalism. Romantic love stories often feature unrequited love, a theme prominent in many poems and songs written by poets such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, and Robert Browning. Love stories have also been popular among writers of adventure fiction, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774).
Other forms of sentimental literature include memoirs, biographies, journals, and letters. These writings often describe or reflect on experiences of love and loss, often involving the author himself or herself. Famous examples from history include Samuel Johnson's Life of Samuel Johnson (published posthumously in 1953), which contains many passages describing how Johnson was haunted by memories of lost loved ones; and Henry David Thoreau's journal, which recounts his thoughts and feelings toward friends and family members throughout his life.
Sentimentalism is the habit of being sentimental and, as a result, inclined to base actions and reactions on emotions and sentiments rather than reason. Sentimentalism has been a recurring feature in global literature as a literary form. The sentimental novel is a sub-category of the novel that developed in England between 1815 and 1820.
It was followed by the Victorian novel, which had more of a focus on character development than sentimentality.
The twentieth century saw the rise of the psychological novel, which is focused more on mental processes than characters. This is different from the sentimental novel, which focuses more on emotions than logic.
Finally, in recent years, there has been a return to the sentimental novel, which is again popular with readers. Examples include Karen Brown's Beautiful People We Have Lost and My Sweet Audrina.
Sentimentality is the quality of being emotional or sensitive to things that move us emotionally such as music, movies, or books. It is also the style of writing that expresses these emotions to readers.
The term "sentimental story" can be used interchangeably with "sentimental storyteller". However, the former refers to a story that uses sentimental elements while the latter refers to someone who tells stories with sentimental overtones.
They include sequences of anguish and compassion, and the story is structured to promote both emotions and actions. The capacity to express sentiments was supposed to reveal character and experience, as well as to define social life and relationships. These novels were also popular because they could be read at any time of day or night, which helped people stay awake while working long hours in factories.
Key elements of the sentimental novel include: dramatic tension, including scenes of horror and violence; a clear-cut good and evil figure; a message advocating tolerance, humility, or some other moral; and a happy ending.
The sentimental novel emerged around the same time as realism, but instead of focusing on objective facts, it uses ideas such as sympathy and empathy to bring the reader into connection with the story's characters. Like realist novels, these stories are generally set in the past or present, but they tend to focus on contemporary issues such as unemployment, poverty, injustice, and war rather than history itself. Sentimental novels often comment on current events, politics, and society, although they can be written by anyone from a common reader without formal training to a famous writer.
Some examples of sentimental novels are Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina. Realism is another major literary movement that began around the same time as the sentimental novel.
Sentimentalism arose in eighteenth-century Europe as a moral theory based on the concept that humans may build connections and communities because they can comprehend one another's feelings via imaginative effort. In other words, humans are social animals who need to feel appreciated in order to be happy. According to this view, our lives should be full of emotion because only through feeling others' emotions can we make them feel better about themselves.
As it turned out, this was not really an alternative theory to rationalism and empiricism but rather a reaction against them. Rationalists claimed that we must use our reason to understand what will make us happy. Empiricists argued that we should follow our instincts because reality matches their behavior. Sentimentalists said that while this is good advice for living your life successfully, it doesn't explain why we should care about others at all. They believed that only if we connect with others emotionally, will they connect with us intellectually.
According to sentimentalism, we should love others because it makes us happier. It follows that if someone else is made unhappy, we should try to keep them that way. For example, if I see someone about to get hit by a car, I should stop them to protect them even though they didn't ask me to.
Sentimentality is the writer's approach of conveying what he or she wants you to feel, frequently by informing you of how the hero or heroine is feeling. "The sight was horrifying," for example, is a simple illustration of sentimentality. Sentimentality can also be used to describe any piece of writing that uses overly emotional language to describe something as if it were alive.