I’m delighted to share that my book, Modern Sentimentalism: Affect, Irony, and Female Authorship in Interwar America (Oxford UP), is now available in the US, the UK, and on e-readers everywhere. Please use the discount code AAFLYG6 and recommend to your libraries.
Assistant Professor of English, Menlo College
Modern Sentimentalism examines the reinvention of sentimentalism by US female novelists in the modernist era. Just as the birth of the modern woman has been commonly imagined as the death of sentimental feeling, modernist innovations have been typically understood to reject sentimental aesthetics. Modern Sentimentalism reframes these perceptions of cultural evolution. Taking up icons such as the New Woman, the flapper, the free lover, the New Negro woman, and the divorcée, the book argues that these figures embody aspects of a traditional sentimentality while also recognizing sentiment as incompatible with ideals of modern selfhood. These double binds equally beleaguer the protagonists and shape the styles of writers like Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, Anita Loos, and Jessie Fauset. "Modern sentimentalism" thus translates nineteenth-century conventions of sincerity and emotional fulfillment into the skeptical, self-conscious modes of interwar cultural production. Reading canonical and underexamined novels in concert with legal briefs, scientific treatises, and other transatlantic period discourse, and synthesizing digital text analysis and data visualization with traditional archival practices, Modern Sentimentalism demonstrates that feminine feeling, far from being peripheral to twentieth-century modernism, animates its principles and preoccupations.
“Mendelman’s book may be one of the most important studies of a generation of American literary scholarship. Mendelman’s method is rich, complicated, and nuanced: a fascinating combination of psychoanalytic, archival, print cultural, deconstructive, and formalist analyses.” — Mary Chapman, University of British Columbia
“Lisa Mendelman’s Modern Sentimentalism offers a fresh, dynamic, and thoroughly convincing recasting of early twentieth-century fiction. In her retelling, formal moves associated with modernism such as irony and fragmentation bespeak not a rejection of the sentimental, but an analytic disposition toward it, shot through with unresolved attachment. This project makes room for a genuinely new and powerful category in literary criticism.” — Jennifer Fleisser, Indiana University