Raymond Williams's “Structures of Feeling” and “Elements of Residual-Emergent-Dominant” as Reflected in the Ethical Formations of the Eighteenth Century: Sarah Fielding’s The Adventures of David Simple, Volume the Last, Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield, Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy and Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling.
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This dissertation looks at the eighteenth-century British sentimental novel tradition as part of a cultural framework in which rivalling ethical theories of the period are represented in a flux of negotiations. Raymond Williams's theory of culture relates that cultural changes are never final, and they are perpetually confronted by emergent and residual forces. The sentimental novel internalizes the tensions between the emergent commercial ethics based on self-interest and the residual alternative ethics centred around communal interest. Self-interest and rationalization of ethics were destroying traditional human relations and redefining human nature. In reaction, Sarah Fielding, Oliver Goldsmith, Laurence Sterne and Henry Mackenzie offered a resistant space in their novels, through which they partially recreated the communal values of the rural estate of the feudal system. Assuming the traditional protectionism of the landed-gentry, the characters in their novels defied the reductionist, alienated and commodified human relations. Their residual alternative ethics was a political reaction and resistance. In conclusion, based on the references to the selected novels of the mentioned writers, this dissertation re-evaluates that the eighteenth-century sentimental novel tradition represents plurality by giving a voice to the dispossessed and marginalized people, egalitarianism by promoting the re-distribution of the capital and social ethics for establishing a meaningful change in society.