chapter  III
4 Pages

III.3 Epistolary literature


While historians of emotions have recognized that sent letters, or missives, represent a rich documentary source of individuals’ emotional lives, they have tended to overlook fictional letters. Epistolary literature is a broad field ranging from epistolary manuals, verse epistle, prose and novels and can circulate in print or manuscript. Whereas ‘real’ letters are written and read primarily for pragmatic reasons, epistolary literature is designed to entertain, impress or educate readers, and to promote the author. Love and friendship are key emotions in fictional letters, although filial piety, shame and humility are recurrent themes. Historical genre analysis can illuminate the cultural assumptions about emotion invested in the art of letter writing.