Fatal Affections: Charlotte Temple, The Coquette, and the Mourning Reader

Daly, Mackenzie, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ogden, Emily, English, University of Virginia

In this thesis, I examine the mass mourning which broke out for Charlotte Temple and Eliza Wharton—the protagonists of Charlotte Temple (1791) and The Coquette (1797) respectively—and endured throughout the nineteenth century. Specifically, I consider the striking similarities between the mass mourning of Charlotte and Eliza and contemporary instances of mass mourning for “gone too soon” celebrity deaths—that is, deaths that are deemed sudden and premature. I argue that while the advent of mass media and mass consumerism has changed the way that fans consume the products of celebrity as well as the ways in which celebrities are born, the affective bonds that fans forge with celebrities, and specifically, for the purposes of this thesis, emotional responses to celebrity death, have remained the same. This analysis draws upon Lauren Berlant’s concept of the “juxtapolitical sphere”—an affective world in which individuals facilitate a fantasy where the power of one’s emotions is strong enough to change social and political structures. I argue that there is more implicit in the performance of mass mourning than simply a lament of the physical loss. I see mourning as an act through which individuals can grieve not only the deceased individual, but the social and political circumstances which engendered the deceased individual’s death and that which the living individual continues to endure.

MA (Master of Arts)
Charlotte Temple, Eliza Wharton, The Coquette, Mourning, Celebrity, Affect
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