Date of Completion


Embargo Period



trauma, sentiment, sympathy, sublime, British literature, long nineteenth century

Major Advisor

Charles Mahoney

Associate Advisor

Greg Semenza

Associate Advisor

Margaret Higonnet

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This study argues that the prevalent eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literary-historical modes of sentiment, sympathy, and the sublime act as foundations for trauma theory by anticipating, and perhaps even offering a fuller view of traumatic experiences and their impact on individuals and communities. Through these modes, authors and philosophers conceptualize the emotional lives of individuals as part of larger and complex narratives of subjectivity—bringing together theories of economics, education, class, and philosophy. In other words, their holistic approach views the individual’s emotional, physiological, and psychological health within a social context. Sentiment, sympathy, and the sublime therefore prime us for reading trauma’s impact on the individual through the body and memory, as well as through interpersonal and emotional relationships. These modes furthermore demonstrate the ways in which the language of witnessing and testimony are central terms for understanding, communicating, and representing those traumas.

Available for download on Tuesday, August 12, 2025