Robyn R. Warhol’s goal is to investigate the effects of readers’ emotional responses to formulaic fiction of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries on gendered subjectivity. She argues that modern literary and cultural studies have ignored nonsexual affectivity in their inquiries. The book elaborates on Warhol’s theory of affect and then focuses on sentimental stories, marriage plots, serialized novels, and soap operas as distinct genres producing specific feelings among fans.
Popular narrative forms use formulas to bring up familiar patterns of feelings in the audiences who love them. This book looks at the patterns of feelings that some nineteenth- and twentieth-century popular genres evoke, and asks how those patterns are related to gender. Soap operas and sentimentalism are generally derided as “effeminate” forms because their emotional range is seen as hyperfeminine. Having a Good Cry presents a celebration of effeminate feelings and works toward promoting more flexible, less pejorative concepts of gender. Using a psychophysiological rather than a psychoanalytic approach to reading and emotion, Warhol seeks to make readers more conscious of what is happening to the gendered body when we read.