Picturing Emotions: Women Novelists and Aesthetic Theories, 1660–1820

Berna Artan, Fordham University


This dissertation juxtaposes aesthetic theories and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels and contends that women novelists adapt these theories in progressive ways. More specifically, I argue that Charlotte Smith, Frances Burney, and Jane Austen implicitly develop aesthetic models in Emmeline, Or The Orphan of The Castle (1788), Camilla, Or A Picture of Youth (1796) and Northanger Abbey (1817), respectively. I examine characters’ observations, emotions, and surroundings to explain why the novelists’ aesthetic models are significantly more modern than the dominant aesthetic and moral theories of thinkers such as Joseph Addison, Edmund Burke, and Adam Smith. When the novelists diverge from the prominent theorists, they almost always do so in favor of social acceptance, tolerance, and sympathetic understanding towards nature, disability and gender equality. My comparison of novels and theories demonstrates how women writers revise the concepts of the ideal observer, the sublime and taste. Smith, Burney and Austen employ detailed depictions of landscapes, bodies and architecture as devices to comment on the contemporary problems of women. With these adaptations, the three novelists may have altered established notions about class and gender dynamics and aimed to contribute to the cultural imaginary through their prose.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Artan, Berna, "Picturing Emotions: Women Novelists and Aesthetic Theories, 1660–1820" (2021). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28718200.