Eighteenth-century sensibilité has always been controversial. In fact, the term itself refers to complex forms of physical and emotional responsiveness, and Lewis’s study investigates the fictional exploration of various key problems of sentimental response. These are analysed in conjunction with some of the actual (often emotional) reactions that the term, its fictions and images have provoked through time, including an indispensable survey of the varying construction of sensibilité as an object of study.
Lewis provides a new reading of the theme of sensibility by analysing the ‘textual images’ in three best-selling novels from the mid-century: Graffigny’s Lettres d’une Péruvienne, Marivaux’s La Vie de Marianne and Rousseau’s Julie. The examination of a largely neglected corpus of illustrations, understood as readings of each text, provides striking new evidence of the complexity, thematic richness and duplicity of these ‘spectacles’ and ‘signs’.
Ann Lewis is a Lecturer in French at Birkbeck College, University of London.
‘A detailed and compelling analysis... Moreover Lewis skilfully combines insights from various fields (literary history, genre studies, theory of representation, reader response) to generate thought-provoking analysis, to provide a nuanced assessment of sensibility, and to suggest additional avenues that warrant investigation.’ — Diane Beelen Woody, Eighteenth-Century Fiction 23.3, Spring 2011, 586-89
‘Thoroughly researched, clearly written, and handsomely produced, this book is a significant contribution to scholarship on French eighteenth-century literature... Readers should be glad that Lewis has so adeptly read the signs and spectacles.’ — Heidi Bostic, French Review 84.5, April 2011, 1029-30
‘Précis, bien informé et solidement documenté, l’ouvrage constitue un apport précieux et stimulant aux recherches sur l’illustration romanesque auquel il articule une réflexion intéressante sur le genre et la réception du roman sensible.’ — Florence Magnot-Ogilvy, French Studies 66.2, April 2012, 245-46
‘[Lewis's] meticulous approach is valuable in providing an at-a-glance overview of the numerous illustrated editions of these well-known novels as well as a point of reference for researchers in the field. The consideration of nineteenth- and twentieth-century illustrations adds depth to Lewis’s study and gives credence to her theory of illustration as a ‘reading’ of a text at various points in history. This is exemplified by the ‘Romantic’ interpretation of the character of Saint-Preux in the nineteenth century, for example, or the eroticised presentation of La Vie de Marianne for a French audience of the 1930s.’ — Una Brogan, Journal of Eighteenth Century Studies 35.3, September 2012, 444-45
‘En somme, Intimicy and distance parvient à ouvrir des horizons insoupçonnés sur un concept indissociable de la modernité et saura profiter à nombre de chercheur.cheuse.s qui s’intéressent aux cultures du XIXe siècle.’ — Daniel Long, Dalhousie French Studies 119, 2021, 184-185
Lewis, Ann, Sensibility, Reading and Illustration: Spectacles and Signs in Graffigny, Marivaux and Rousseau (Cambridge: Legenda, 2009)
First footnote reference:35 Ann Lewis, Sensibility, Reading and Illustration: Spectacles and Signs in Graffigny, Marivaux and Rousseau (Cambridge: Legenda, 2009), p. 21.