The term sensibility of a poet refers to the characteristic way a poet responds through the way of perception, thought and feeling, to the experiences that he encounters.
Critics describe this as the sensibility of the poet, in their research paper writings. When T. S. Eliot wrote his essay, he talked about dissociation of Sensibility which was set in the poetry of John Milton and John Dryden.
While talking about them he signified that there occurred a decision between the sensuous, emotional and intellectual modes of experience in a poet, at that time. Therefore, we now learn that how much is the concept important to the understanding of the literature written under this topic.
When literary historians talk about the literature of sensibility, they refer to a particular cultural phenomenon of the eighteenth century. This type of literature was a result of the moral philosophy that had developed as a reaction against the seventeenth century Stoicism,
and above all as a reaction against Thomas Hobbes’ claims in Leviathan, that a human being is intrinsically selfish, and that the offspring of human behavior are self-interest as well as the drive for status and power.
In complete opposition to such views, many essays, popular tracts and philosophical writings proclaimed that benevolence is an innate human motive and sentiment, and that sympathy and sensibility are the central elements in all morality.
In the eighteenth century, the term sensibility connoted an intense emotional responsiveness to beauty and publicity, whether in art or nature, and such responsiveness was often represented as an index to a person’s fertility, which means a person’s upper-class status.
The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith laid emphasis on the human capability for sympathy and helped to develop social consciousness in an era of expanding commercialism.
In the eighteenth-century culture, as stated by various research paper writings, highly exaggerated forms of sympathy and manifestations of benevolence became prominent.
It was assumed that the readiness to shed tears due to sympathy for others, was the sign of both polite breeding as well as a virtuous heart, and such a feeling was also accompanied by the observation that sympathy with others grief, unlike the personal grief, was a pleasurable emotion. Thus, sought as a value in itself.
In literature, these ideas of sensibility were reflected in the drama of sensibility or in other words, sentimental comedy, which were representations of middle-class life which replaced the comic or satiric representation of aristocratic sexual license as well as the tough amorality in Restoration comedy.
Oliver Goldsmith talked about the contemporary plays of sensibility and said that in these plays the virtues of private life are exhibited than the vices being exposed and the faults of mankind gather less attention than his distresses.
He also said that although the characters wanted humor, they had abundance of sentiment and feeling and thus the audience sat as gloomy as the play as if sitting at the tabernacle.
The Restoration plays such as Richard Cumberland’s The West Indian and Richard Steele’s The Conscious Lovers present the benevolent heroes and heroines who belong to the middle class families and whose dialogues are full of elevated moral sentiments. These characters suffer tribulations, before the happy ending of the play, designed to evoke a maximum of pleasurable tears from the audience.
Similarly, the novel of sensibility or the sentimental novel developed in the latter part of the eighteenth century. These novels emphasized the tearful distresses of the virtuous either by their own sorrows or at those of near ones.
A few of them represented a sublimity or sensitivity to beauty in natural phenomena which culminated in tears. Pamela by Samuel Richardson exploits sensibility in some of its scenes.
Same was done by Laurence Sterne in his Tristram Shandy in the 1760s. He gives us his own compound sense of self-irony, sensibility and innuendo. Thereafter, the vogue of sensibility became international.
Jean Jacques Rousseau came up with his two works, his novel Julie, or the New Heloise and his autobiography The Confessions. In the former, he deals with lovers who manifest sensibility while in the latter, Rousseau represented himself in some moods and circumstances, as a man of extravagant sensibility.
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe was an enormously popular representation of the aesthetic sensitivities and finespun emotional tribulations of a young man who shoots himself, frustrated in his love for any already betrothed woman and unable to adapt to the demands of ordinary life.
Another prominent example in these novels is that of Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling. This novel represents a hero of such exquisite sensibility that he goes into a decline from excess of collected tenderness towards a lady.
He finally dies in the perturbation of finally declaring this love to her. In the later years, Jane Austen came up with her Sense and Sensibility wherein she satirizes the young woman of sensibility.
In this way she exploits the literary mode of sensibility. But this mode survived in later novels such as the death of Little Nell in Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. Further the concept of sensibility was exploited in the Victorian melodrama as well as in many Hollywood movies.
In his The Politics of Sensibility, Markman Ellis, moves away from the usual derogatory treatment rendered to these sentimental novels written in the eighteenth century.
They did so by saying that they contributed to the social reform movements, including the movements of slavery, criticism of questionable morality involved in some business and commercial practices, as well as the movement for reforming prostitutes.
In America, these sentimental novels were known as domestic novels or novels of woman’s fiction and usually involved the stories of young girls who must make their ways in this unprotected world.
Therefore, the sentimental novels in no time spread to the entire world as well as fast in the world of literature. The points stated above are sufficient enough to provide assignment help to the students on the topic.