What makes us cry? Where do we allow ourselves to cry? And when do we enjoy being moved to tears? In other words, what are the forms and functions of the sentimental? The Global Sentimentality Project examines how the sentimental unfolds its power as an aesthetic narrative strategy, as a practice of crisis management, and as a technology of political mobilization. Our understanding of the sentimental revises the stigmatization of the term in popular parlance and extends its meaning beyond a set of literary texts. The sentimental shapes aesthetic experiences of all kinds. It operates in different cultural settings and in various political contexts where it has been analyzed as either facilitating or obstructing change. The Global Sentimentality Project brings together scholars from around the world and from different disciplines in order to compare the workings of the sentimental across cultures, social formations, and historical periods. The research activities of the Global Sentimentality Project are organized around four themes, which intersect and overlap.

Research field 1 “Sentimental state narratives” examines how citizens are affectively interpellated through sentimental props in political rhetoric and cultural practices. The projects subsumed under this theme investigate how intimate relations and familial bonds are symbolically related to the imagined community of the nation – and vice versa – in both affirmative as well as resistant ways.

Research field 2 “Sentimentality and rights” looks at the role of sentimental narratives in social movements and political agenda setting on a national and a transnational level. The projects under this header are concerned with sentimentally evoked and legitimized forms of civil rights and human rights, along with projects of cultural memory and reparative justice, and the way these are enacted and challenged.

Research field 3 “World literatures and the sentimental” analyzes the tension between culture specific repertoires of the sentimental in national literatures vis-à-vis a transcultural literary typology of sentimentalism. The projects grouped here also seek to account for forms of cultural mobility and cultural transfer of the sentimental across the globe. The label “world literature” will be scrutinized with regard to its own investment in discourses both of the sentimental and anti-sentimental.

Research field 4 “Visual cultures and the sentimental” is interested in how the sentimental is produced by and itself generative of specific scoping regimes – and how these have been read in diachronic and synchronic perspective. While some of these regimes loom large (the aesthetics of Hollywood melodrama, for instance), projects in this field also examine the less obvious and lesser known forms of visually rendering and critiquing sentimentality.


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Apply now! The Global Sentimentality Fellowship brings promising young scholars as well as renowned experts in the field of sentimentality studies to Erlangen. It is open to applicants from around the world and from all disciplines in the humanities. Fellows are expected to be in residence at Erl...

Rebecca Wanzo is Associate Professor for women, gender, and sexuality studies and Associate Director of the Center for Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and will join the Global Sentimentality Project as a fellow during the summer term of 2020. She is the author of The Suffe...

Mark B. Kelley is an Assistant Professor of English at Florida International University and will join the Global Sentimentality Project as a fellow in the summer term of 2020. As a scholar of early American literature and culture, his research focuses on transoceanic studies, material culture, affec...