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structure of feeling


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


First used by Raymond W illiams in his A Preface to Film (with Michael Orrom, 1954), developed in The Long Revolution (1961), and extended and elaborated throughout his work, in particular Marxism and Literature (1977), Williams first used this concept to characterize the lived experience of the quality of life at a particular time and place. It is, he argued, “as firm and definite as ‘structure’ suggests, yet it operates in the most delicate and least tangible part of our activities.” Later he describes structures of feeling as “social experiences in solution .” Thus a “structure of feeling” is the C ulture of a particular historical moment, though in developing the concept, Williams wished to avoid idealist notions of a “spirit of the age.” It suggests a common set of perceptions and values shared by a particular generation, and is most clearly articulated in particular and artistic forms and conventions. The industrial novel of the 1840s would be one example of the structure of feeling which emerged in middle-class consciousness out of the development of industrial capitalism. Each generation lives and produces it own “structure of feeling,” and while particular groups might express this most forcibly, it extends unevenly through the culture as a whole. In later formulations of the concept, however, Williams stresses “the complex relation of differentiated structures ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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