Communing with the Fictional Dead: Grave Tourism and the Sentimental Novel

Williams, Helen (2021) Communing with the Fictional Dead: Grave Tourism and the Sentimental Novel. In: British Sociability in the European Enlightenment. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 41-62. ISBN 9783030525699, 9783030525668, 9783030525675

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From the 1770s onwards gravesites of characters from Laurence Sterne’s Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–67), A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768) and Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth (1791) appeared across Germany and in America as a unique form of literary afterlife. This essay argues that graves of literary heroines, Maria and Charlotte, were a means by which readers could express the heightened sensibility characteristic of the sentimental novel tradition through communing with favourite dead characters and—whether through sociable pilgrimage or simply in imagination—other sentimental readers. Considering the characteristically tragic outcomes for female protagonists of the sentimental novel, the practice of grave-visiting described here depends on while also unpacking narratives which explore female sexuality and its relationship with death. Graves to fictional characters therefore facilitated readers’ quixotic mourning while holding the potential to provoke collective criticism of sentimental literary culture’s framing of female sexuality, other than that which conveniently concludes with marriage, as tragedy

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Q300 English studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2022 10:30
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2023 03:30

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