Hina Nazar is Associate Professor of English and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Born and raised in Pakistan, she moved to the US for her university education, and obtained her Ph.D. in English from Johns Hopkins University in 2004. She is the author of Enlightened Sentiments: Judgment and Autonomy in the Age of Sensibility (New York: Fordham, 2012) and of several articles on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British fiction, Enlightenment moral and political theory, and critical theory. Most recently, she contributed a chapter assessing the Hegelian contexts of George Eliot’s fiction to A Companion to George Eliot (Oxford: Blackwell, 2013). Her work has been supported by grants and fellowships from sources including the Mellon Foundation and Cornell University, Trinity College (Oxford University), the Center for Research in Culture and Literature (Johns Hopkins), the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Nazar’s book Enlightened Sentiments reassesses the claims of Enlightenment modernity by reassessing the place of sentimentalism within eighteenth-century letters. Often regarded as a marginal other to the mainstream rationalist Enlightenment, sentimentalism, Nazar argues, more fully shapes the Enlightenment’s key moral and political norm of autonomy than has been acknowledged. It does so through its extensive investment in the topos of judgment, a principal connotation of the word “sentiment” in the eighteenth century. Understanding autonomy as judging for oneself rather than as the strict self-legislation of Immanuel Kant’s famous formulation, a broad group of Enlightenment writers whom Nazar characterizes as “sentimentalist”—including David Hume, Adam Smith, Samuel Richardson, Henry Mackenzie, William Godwin, and Jane Austen—enables a still overlooked conception of moral independence that is strikingly attentive to the claims of interdependence. Nazar foregrounds especially the curious aesthetic analogy for moral experience deployed by many sentimentalists, and explores the ways in which this analogy brings eighteenth-century sentimentalism into dialogue with more recent developments in moral and political theory, especially the writings on judgment of Hannah Arendt.
Nazar’s current book project is entitled Educating for Freedom: Enlightenment Narratives of Autonomy, Gender, and Social Influence. Drawing upon authors from John Locke and Mary Astell in the 1690s to such English radicals of the 1790s as Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, this study explores a key paradox of modern liberal education, built into its hope that freedom is something that can be taught. Since education is all about social influence—broadly conceived, it means the transmission of culture from one generation to the next—how might it lead to freedom from social influence? Interpreting early liberal culture—including the fictional form known as the Bildungsroman—through the lens of educational thought rather than moral and political theory, Educating for Freedom seeks to understand the characterological assumptions of modern liberalism, as well as to reconsider the place of the social in its understandings of freedom.