English, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, vol. 39, no.1 (Spring 2006), pp. 174-177. Copyright (c) 2006 Midwest Modern Language Association. Used by permission.


This volume of essays joins a small but growing body of work attempting to recuperate "benevolence" as an important concept for nineteenth century American literary history. As Susan Ryan observes in The Grammar of Good Intentions: Race 8 the Antebellum Culture of Benevolence, although sentimentality and benevolence are interrelated, the recent critical focus on sentimentality has tended to obscure the importance of benevolence as a nineteenth-century cultural category. While Ryan focuses on gender in addition to race, most of her primary literary figures are, nevertheless, male. The essays in this volume thus usefully supplement Ryan's volume, bringing another (and often crucially different) set of literary texts to the conversation.