The History of Tears: Sensibility and Sentimentality in by Anne Vincent-Buffault

By Anne Vincent-Buffault

"In which societies," Roland Barthes requested, "and at which instances, have we cried? due to the fact that while have males (and now not girls) ceased to cry? Why, at a definite second, did sensibility sink into sentimentality?" those are only a few of the questions which Anne Vincent-Buffault units out to respond to. focusing on 18th and nineteenth century France, she lines the curious evolution of the functionality of tears, from the general public effusions of the 18th century during the extra introspective sobbing of the Romantic interval and directly to the Victorian era's relegation of tears to the prestige of a female, and as a result reprehensible, weak point. Dr Vincent-Buffault attracts on a wealth of assets: novels, diaries and letters, theatre studies, scientific experiences and books of etiquette. the image which emerges is a sophisticated and sometimes paradoxical one. Intensely inner most and but hugely demonstrative, likely spontaneous and but - as this research indicates - traditionally decided, tears functionality as a posh and hugely variable "discourse". And the adjustments of their which means have reflected key events in society: alterations within the function of privateness and emotion, adjustments within the position of girls.

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Filled with tears. On seeing me cry, he softened and received me in his arms. 24 It is possible to question the degree of accepted literary formulae and the degree of reality in this second-hand account, but it is significant that the rediscovered affection should have passed through such gestures and such tears, which, especially for men, were evidence of the times. The Exchange of Tears and its Rules 27 LOVE AND LIBERTINAGE Love affairs and the manoeuvres of seduction caused a circulation of tears in the novel which suggested a certain coherence.

The mother was most often, in the novels of the eighteenth century, a touching and consoling figure. Her indulgence towards the errors of her offspring was most often interpreted by tears which she could not restrain in the face of the misery of her own children. At first moralising, she would finish by being unable to resist the distress of her tearful daughter who vowed to her that she was in love: her softening would even appear to be a consent although she might disapprove of the guilty passion.

In Le Rtve d'Alembert (D' Alembert' s dream], Bordeu also demonstrated to Julie de Lespinasse that in spending her time laughing and weeping she was condemning herself to remaining no more than a child. The sensitive being who placed himself at the mercy of his diaphragm, of the extreme movements of the nerve endings which were attached to this centre of mobility, was condemning himself to mediocrity. Mme de Lespinasse recognised herself in this portrait. Immediately moved by a word or a touching sight which would provoke an interior tumult of tears, shivering and suffocation, the sensitive person lost all his or her faculties.

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