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Vol.5, Issue 1, 2019, pp.40-58 Full text

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Web of Science: 000472606700004

Elena D. Andonova-Kalapsazova

South-West University Neofit Rilski, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

The article undertakes the analysis of Ann Radcliffe's novel The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents (1797) from a history of literary emotions perspective which, I argue, yields insights into the attitudes towards emotions embedded in Radcliffe's works. A reading of the novel from such a perspective also complements the critical studies of the artist's engaging with the eighteenth-century cult of sensibility. The novel is read as a text that registered but also participated in the dissemination of an epistemology of emotional experience articulated in the idiom of eighteenth-century moral philosophers - Francis Hutcheson, David Hume and Adam Smith - at the same time as it retained some of the older, theology-based conceptions of passions and affections. The dynamic in which the two frameworks for understanding the emotions exist in the novel is explored through a close reading of the vocabulary in which Radcliffe rendered the emotional experiences of her fictional characters. In this reading it is the passions which are found to have been invested with a variety of meanings and attributed a range of moral valences that most noticeably foreground the movement from a generally negative towards a more complex appreciation of powerful emotions.

Keywords: Ann Radcliffe, passions, affections, emotions history, moral philosophy

Article history:
Submitted: 12 March 2019;
Reviewed: 30 March 2019;
Revised: 17 April 2019;
Accepted: 1 May 2019;
Published: 1 June 2019

Citation (APA):
Andonova-Kalapsazova, E. (2019). Emotions Vocabulary and the Reconceptualisation of Emotions in Ann Radcliffe's The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents, English Studies at NBU, 5(1), 40-58.

Copyright © 2019 Elena Andonova-Kalapsazova

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Open Review

1. Reviewer's name: Tadd Graham Fernée, PhD, New Bulgarian University
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Review Verified on Publons
Review Content:
The article analyses Anne Radcliffe's The Italian from a history of emotions perspective that makes interesting use of the text and secondary sources, as well as philosophical and biographical sources. It advances a compelling depiction of 18th century social transitions in values, resulting from the secularizing force of the expanding public sphere. This is a thought provoking and well-organized investigation of social transitions in values reflected in literary, philosophical, biographical and, to a lesser extent, historical source materials. It makes good use of philosophical texts – foremost, the 18th century British Moral Philosophers, but also Christian philosophers like Saint Augustine. The article uses interesting biographical material which give a clearer image of Radcliffe’s family and social context.

The author shows that Radcliffe's The Italian embodies the 18th century reconceptualization of emotional experience articulated through a changing emotional vocabulary. These shifts from theological underpinnings (Innocence/corruption; Obedience/punishment; Sensitive/Animal soul) to new secular domains of medicine, psychology and physiology were manifested in the 18th century "Cult of Sensibility". The writer interestingly demonstrates that Radcliffe did not positively affirm the "Cult of Sensibility", but intimately explored the everyday social textures of intertwining new and older emotional vocabularies (i.e. theological and modern elements) manifest in the terminological heterogeneity of a conceptual state of flux. The writer then argues that changing meanings of the "passions" reveal a value transition from ontological meanings (i.e. Sins entailing Punishment) to passions as harboring variable good and bad significance intelligible within a consequentialist and secular universal framework (i.e. human nature, moral sense, etc.) This is indeed an interesting argument, and it is very well documented through the sources.

My only suggestion is that the writer step back somewhat from their own research findings to venture some broader theoretical implications for either literature, society or values, perhaps in a short conclusion. What do these striking changes mean for the human condition, or at least for the European milieu under discussion, and perhaps other societies then locked into the dynamic matrix of modernizing European societies? One thread in the writer’s argument that struck me was how Radcliffe pioneered the Gothic, a genre known for exploring the dissolution of fixed borders. This process of identity and value dissolution and reconstitution, using variable and conflicting "vocabularies", manifesting multiple and overlapping historical temporalities, seemed to be one core insight of the article. However, the author did not explicitly extract the implications of this "poetics" in Radcliffe in terms of its possible implications of the Gothic as a new revolution in modern literature and aesthetics.

2. Reviewer's name: Undisclosed
Review Content: Undisclosed

Handling Editor: Stan Bogdanov
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