Sentimentalism in literature, its main features and representatives

Sentimentalism in literature, its main features and representatives


The term “sentimentalism” (sensuality) in art is commonly called thinking, which emphasizes the emotional underpinnings of all manifestations of life. Sentimentalism in literature is represented by a whole generation of both Western and Russian artists of the word, despite the fact that its epoch lasted for a relatively short time – from the beginning of 18 to the beginning of the 19th century. The birthplace of this literary genre is Great Britain. It was here at the end of the second decade of the 18th century that James Thomson’s “The Four Seasons” was born and became available to the mass reader. This literary work, consisting of several previously disparate poems, instilled in people a love for the world around them. Each poem opened the reader an amazing world of rural open spaces, the beauty of countryside landscapes.

Thomson’s torch was accepted by the English writer Thomas Gray in his elegy “Rural Cemetery.” The author also tried to interest the reader in describing nature, awaken in him love, or at least compassion for a simple village folk who lives simply and works hard for the benefit of the family and the motherland. All of Gray’s work is permeated with reflections on the life of rural people, which gives him a brooding and melancholy character. Sentimentalism in literature is invariably associated with the names of Lawrence Stern (“Sentimental Journey”) and Samuel Richardson (“Clarissa Harlow”). The second never wrote about nature, the meaning of his works consisted in describing different human characters, as well as the fate of their owners. Richardson skillfully compelled all the higher English society at the time to sigh and experience,

Sentimentalism in the literature of France is associated with the creative work of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Jacques de Saint-Pierre. Under the influence of sentimental moods of English writers, such works as “The Life of Marianne”, “New Eloise”, “Paul and Virginie” were created. In the novels of French writers of the mid-18th century, a combination of sentimental moods of heroes prevails against the background of the beauty of nature: city parks, forest lakes and rivers. Especially far in his literary research comes de Saint-Pierre, transferring the main characters of the novel “Paul and Virginie” to distant South Africa. Before the reader of his works there



is a pair of loving young people living away from the city’s smog and fuss, alone with virgin nature and with their sincere feelings.

Sentimentalism in Russian literature manifests itself only in the last decades of the 18th century, when inspired by the works of Getta, Richardson and Russo, Nikolai Karamzin writes his Letters of the Russian Traveler. It should be noted that in the future Karamzin had a dozen imitators, both at the beginning of the 19th century, and many years later. His work “Poor Liza” is considered a true masterpiece of Russian sentimental prose. The story of a poor, cheated man won the hearts of many thousands of readers. Alexander Izmailov, inspired by the novel, wrote in 1801 his “Poor Masha”, Ivan Svechinsky – “Henrietta” (1802). The main features of Russian sentimentalism are:

The cult of sensuality, the predominance of feelings over the will of man;

The wealth of the inner world of the main characters;

The desire of heroes for high ideals, their eternal search for real feelings.

The goal of Russian sensual prose was the creation of a new poetic language, which was to replace the old arrogant and long-established aristocratic language. Unfortunately, or fortunately, this did not happen. By 1820, Russian sentimentality had completely exhausted itself, and its goals remained unfulfilled.

Today, many historians and art historians tend to believe that the sentimental literary trend was just a fleeting stage in the development of world literature as a whole. Sentimentalism in the literature of the mid-18th century was a transition from classicism to romanticism. Ultimately becoming unnecessary, he exhausted himself, thus opening the way for a new literary direction.



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Sentimentalism in literature, its main features and representatives