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A Feminine EnlightenmentBritish Women Writers and the Philosophy of Progress, 1759-1820$
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JoEllen DeLucia

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748695942

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748695942.001.0001

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The Progress of Feeling: The Ossian Poems and Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments

The Progress of Feeling: The Ossian Poems and Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments

(p.19) Chapter 1 The Progress of Feeling: The Ossian Poems and Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments
A Feminine Enlightenment

JoEllen DeLucia

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the relationship between time, feeling, and gender in two foundational texts of the Scottish Enlightenment, the Ossian poems and Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. It contends that Macpherson and Smith created a temporal map of emotion that gauged social development from “primitive” to “developed” cultures and offered women writers and Scottish philosophers a new field upon which they could experiment with the relationship between gender and historical progress. Despite their obvious differences, Macpherson and Smith used women’s social status and the feminine values they were thought to impart to their male counterparts as tools for charting, evaluating, and questioning emerging theories of historical change. The ambiguity surrounding feminine sentiments’ placement in these Scottish Enlightenment narratives of historical progress creates the foundation for the following chapters, which trace women writers’ engagement with the theories of feeling and historical progress articulated by these two influential writers.

Keywords:   Adam Smith, James Macpherson, Ossian poems, historiography, Scottish Enlightenment, women writers

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