a quick idea

August 5, 2007 at 9:10 pm 2 comments

I’m revising my chapter on Jack London and I wanted a definition of sentiment that manages to accommodate both the bourgeois domestic variety, (i.e. “hearth and home”) and the masculine periphery variety, (i.e. lighting out for the territory) and arrived at this:

A sentimental narrative locates as authentic the privileged site of one’s self.

Any thoughts on this or varieties of sentiment more generally?


Entry filed under: dissertation, sentiment.

“i’m bored with you” The Right Thing

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cerebraljetsam  |  August 7, 2007 at 5:21 am

    hmmm…not bad. But how would you differentiate sentimentalism (according to your definition) from bourgeouis ideology in general (defined as the bourgeoisie’s imaginary relationship to their real conditions of existence, i.e. containing a similar claim to authenticity)? Or is bourgeois ideology always sentimental and there is not even a difference here? Maybe bourgeois ideology is THE sentimental narrative?

  • 2. skunkcabbage  |  August 7, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    Exactly, bourgeois ideology creates “individuals” who identify privileged sites, like the home, or the car, as extensions of themselves–places where they feel most fully removed from exploitation. Sentimental narrative is a way of disappearing history in so far as it is not so much a pining for a fictional past (i.e. nostalgia) but the ever-present possibility of fulfillment, like a carrot dangled before a donkey, if the bourgeois individual can only find the right place.

    In this way, in Jack London, the call of the cabin (White Fang), and Buck’s lighting out over the territory (Call of the Wild), both function as structurally analogous sentimental narratives.

    My argument is that this version of sentiment echoes Stowe’s sentiment in Uncle Tom’s Cabin–a text that London cites when suggesting the Sinclair’s Jungle will do for the wage slaves what Stowe’s UTC did for the African slaves. If the dogs in London’s novels are racially inflected, then, I argue that the call of the cabin and the call of the wild echo London’s racial suppositions about the possibility of an integrated America. Bondage remands the beast to the cabin or field–where, and this is particularly galling, “they belong” because according to bourgeois ideology it is where they are most fully themselves.

    Sentiment in this way is not wholly unlike an ideological club used to bludgeon anyone who strays from the beaten path.


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