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Drawing on texts ranging from George Washington's "Farewell Address" and Charles Brockden Brown's Clara Howard to Hannah Foster's The Coquette and Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Burgett shows that the sentimental literary culture of the period relied on readers' affective, passionate, and embodied responses to fictive characters and situations in order to produce political effects. As such, sentimentalism located readers' bodies both as prepolitical sources of personal authenticity and as public sites of political contestation. Going beyond an account of the public sphere as a realm to which only some have full access, Burgett reveals that the formation of the body and sexual subjectivity is crucial to the very construction of that sphere. By exploring and destabilizing the longstanding distinction between public and private life, this book raises questions central to any democratic political culture.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: American literature 1783-1850 History and criticism, Politics and literature United States History 19th century, Politics and literature United States History 18th century, United States Intellectual life 1783-1865, Gender identity in literature, Sentimentalism in literature, Body, Human, in literature, Citizenship in literature, Sex role in literature