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The Novel and Sentimentalism in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe and China: A Modest Proposal for Comparing Early Modern Literatures

Abstract : This paper proposes, first, a theoretical reflection on how to compare literatures which developed in early-modern times and in remote places, namely in Europe and in China. Seeking to avoid the inevitable pitfalls of relativism, universalism and teleology, the author follows a methodological path starting with the exploration of mere affinities and, based on a close examination of both texts and their contexts, aiming at the articulation of a necessarily qualified convergence or consistency between these disparate literary traditions. Second, this paper offers a case study, taking into account the sentimental novel—mostly exemplified by Rousseau’s New Heloise and Cao’s Dream in the Red Chamber, but also referring to many other novelistic works—in order to examine the following question: is there a common turning point in the European and Chinese sentimental novel related to the cultural promotion of a conception of sentiment as an autonomous inner feeling or thought that can legitimately serve as a conduct guide for the novels’ characters? If such a turn is verified, it would mark the possibility of a globalized early-modern stage in the history of literature.
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http://hal.univ-nantes.fr/hal-03292111
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 10:59:30 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, July 21, 2021 - 3:36:25 AM

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Philippe Postel. The Novel and Sentimentalism in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe and China: A Modest Proposal for Comparing Early Modern Literatures. Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, 2017, 17 (2), pp.6--37. ⟨hal-03292111⟩

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