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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown

Dissociation of sensibility:

A term used by T. S. Eliot to describe the disjunction of thought and feeling that he perceives in English literature from the seventeenth century onward. For writers such as John Donne, Eliot argues, a thought was an experience; it was integrated with emotional and bodily response. Since the time of John Milton, however, thought has been divorced from feeling, and as the former became more refined and subtle, the latter became cruder. According to Eliot, the dissociation of sensibility is a linguistic and cultural malaise from which English literature and society have never recovered.

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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University of Toronto English Library
Director: Ian Lancashire.
Last modified: March 31, 1997