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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: December 2020

Chapter 8 - Sentimental Premonitions and Antebellum Spectacle

from Part II - American Apocalypse in (and out of) History


This chapter considers sentiment and sensation as intertwined subgenres of early nineteenth-century literature and culture. It argues that understanding how sentimental forms harness ideas about end times to advocate for change in the first half of the century requires acknowledging how both sentiment and sensation stage dramatic, tension-filled moments. After reviewing recent scholarship on intersections between sentiment and terror and the complex religiosity of nineteenth-century sentimental traditions, the chapter turns to George Lippard’s 1845 novel The Quaker City; or, The Monks of Monk Hall to illustrate how relationships between fiction, visuality, and theater and performance culture function to create apocalyptic spectacle. Discourses of spectatorship in a sensational novel such as Lippard’s and in a sentimental novel such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) are central to tensions between faith and doubt in an era characterized by both reform movements and vibrant visual and performance cultures.

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