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Sentimental sensibility in the emerging artist: Yeats, Joyce and Proust
After tracing the theo-philosophical roots of the eighteenth-century sentimental sensibility as Laurence Sterne used them in Tristram Shandy, this work examines the antecedents of twentieth-century sentimentalism as they appear in William Butler Yeats's memoir Reveries Over Childhood and Youth, in the first two chapters of James Joyce's novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and in the "Overture" and "Combray" sections of Marcel Proust's novel Swann's Way.^ This study concentrates on how the focal characters' innate artistic sensibility emerges during their childhoods. Following sentimental patterns, the idealistic central figures are vulnerable to threatening realities that disillusion them. Melancholy accompanies their distress, and they react by wishing to withdraw physically and psychologically from an alienating world to which they feel superior because of their aesthetic sensibilities. These modern works conform to three specific sentimental characteristics that appear in Yeats, Stephen and Marcel. First, they respond spontaneously to sensory stimuli, which lead to associated ideas, often manifest as memories or synaesthesia that the characters elaborate both imaginatively and intellectually. The second sentimental trait is that the action of deeply-detailed scenes is often suspended to reveal characters. And the last sentimental element, which reinforces the Kunstlerroman and Bidungsroman aspects of these works, is that the protagonists turn to language to define both their realities and artistic identities, showing the evolution of sentimental sensibility in these potential writers. ^
Literature, Comparative|Literature, Romance|Literature, English
Laura Jane Ress,
"Sentimental sensibility in the emerging artist: Yeats, Joyce and Proust"
(January 1, 1996).
Electronic Doctoral Dissertations for UMass Amherst.