What I’m Writing Wednesday

Here’s a few snippets from an Annotated Bibliography I put together for a current research project:

Research Topic:

I am working on a project dealing with sentimentality and the gaze in animal narratives, specifically horses. My primary texts are “The Maltese Cat” by Rudyard Kipling and “A Stranger to the Wild” by Charles G.D. Roberts. Philip Armstrong suggests in his work, “Cetaceans and Sentiment” that sentimental treatment signifies a point where “radical transformation of cultural feeling has taken place-or is about to” (182). In Laura Mulvey’s landmark work, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” she suggests a gendered viewing of film, where the passive woman is gazed upon and controlled, whether throug the act of viewing or identification with the male protagonist, by the viewer, who because of their position of power identifies with the active male. It makes sense that in the human/non-human relationship, there would be a similar hierarchy in portrayal. I posit that where sentimentality is present in narrative, there will also be a shift of animal from passive/object to active/subject.


Armstrong, Philip. “Cetaceans and Sentiment.” Considering Animals: Contemporary Studies in Human–Animal Relations. Ed. Carol
     Freeman, Elizabeth Leane, and Yvette Watt. Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing. 2011, 169-182. Print.

Challenges modern negative views of sentimentality stemming from Enlightenment philosophers who discounted “emotional realities.” He seeks to understand how “emotional states shape historical phenomena.” As a case example, Armstrong looks at cetaceans, specifically bottle nose dolphins and how sentimental narratives concerning them heralded significant change in how people viewed and treated dolphins. He uses the lenses of humanist views, Marxist historiography, and Raymond William’s structure of feeling to critically analyze dolphin narratives. Armstrong concludes that sentimentality is matters because popularity bred by sentiment gives power, and it signifies a point where “radical transformation of cultural feeling has taken place-or is about to.”

Copeland, Marion. “Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Equine Memoirs and Autobiographies.” Speaking for Animals: Animal
     Autobiographical Writing. Ed. Margo DeMello. New York City: Routledge. 2013, 179-191. Print.

Takes a closer look at the literature type classified as the “animal-centric story,” which is often put in categories such as satire, fantasy, or children’s literature. All three of these categories are not considered part of the “cannon” of literature. Copeland’s focus Sewell’s Black Beauty and Hawke’s Sweet William illustrates the horse as empowered through simultaneous privileges of narrator and protagonist, and telling their own story within their own habitat. Both of these novels and others like them are important because of their implied claim for sentience, self-awareness, intelligence, grasp of the past, present, and future, and understanding of the world around them by non-human animals. Copeland also points out that though the horses in these writings are under human control, the reader still sees from the horse point of view, giving them agency through literature. Copeland also makes the claim that these horse-centric stories gave rise to many other horse-centric books, films, and poems.

Fisher, Philip. Hard Facts: Setting and Form in the American Novel. New York City: Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

Argues that what the 20th century sees as the weakest forms of the 19th century novel are actually the force of what Fisher defines as “cultural work.” Cultural work is the “redesign of boundaries between categories” and “moral and perceptual change,” brought about by repetitious “moral and perceptual practices.” Fisher asserts that the three popular forms of the 19th century that did this cultural work are: historical novel, sentimental novel, and natualist novel. He examines the historical novel through James Fennimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, sentimental novel through Harriet Beacher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Theordore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie for the naturalist novel. He recognized that the power of these forms was their ability to insert and normalize a singular, new reality into an already glutted cultural and moral landscape. His study on sentimentality dwells primarily on symbolic landscape, central agent, and the link between work and way of life.


Halpern, Faye. Sentimental Readers: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of a Disparaged Rhetoric. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Press,
     2013. Print.

Seeks to revisit sentimentality, both in the 19th century historical context and for modern reader/writers. Halpern covers the common criticism of sentimentality, quoting Elaine Showalter’s views on sentimentalism, “many associate sentimentality with social conservatism and benighted gender relations.” Though Halpern admits to her own initial dislike of sentimental novels, she wrote this text to share what she learned after she worked to separate sentimentalism from the feelings it “evoked” in her. She first defines the term she uses to refer to sentimentalism, “sentimental rhetoric,” which is a “set of textual strategies that popular mid-century women writers developed to persuade readers of their world view.” She also claims that her book focuses less on what sentimental rhetoric is, and more on how it “directs its audience to read.” Her first chapter looks at early 19th century male orators who struggled with “disingenuous eloquence” when they evoke sentimentalism. Her second chapter looks specificially at Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and its successful use of sentimental rhetoric. She also gives a hierarchy of sentiment in the sentimental novel: tears as most powerful, voice as slightly less powerful, and words as the least powerful. Her third and fourth chapters discuss the decline of the power of sentimental rhetoric. Her fifth chapter looks at sentimental rhetoric in the present. Her final chapter looks at “modern readers’ discomfort with sentimentalism.” This section gives practical advice on reading sentimental texts in order to experience them as the authors meant them to be experienced.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism. Ed. Robyn Warhol
     and Diane Price Herndl
. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 1997, 438-448. Print.

Examines traditional cinema through a psychoanalytic lens. Wants to explore “where and how fascination of film is reinforced by pre-existing patterns of fascination already at work within the individual subject and the social form that have mounded him.” She also sees psychoanalytic perspective as a “political weapon” that can uncover the patriarchal structure inherent in film. Mulvey focuses on two form of pleasure in cinema: 1) scopophila, which is pleasure in looking, 2) narcissistic scopophilia, where the viewer sees the human body and both recognizes and misrecognizes the body on the screen as his own. Mulvey also investigates the woman/passive v. male/active binary. This comes into play with pleasurable viewing because in form one, the spectator identifies with the gazer, who because of the inability of man to be object, is the male, and gains power over the woman the viewer is gazing at. In the second form, the spectator identifies with the male protagonist in the film, and then controls the woman in the film through the protagonist.