Few topics in literary studies are hotter than the history of emotion. The long eighteenth century, moreover, would seem to stand at the nexus of this critical activity: as the period in which various expressions of affect achieved their modern form. One might say, perhaps, that the single-author study has given way, in the past twenty years or so, to the single-emotion study. The former is scarce and growing scarcer. Not so the latter, as evidenced by the recent critical attention granted to topics like boredom (Patricia Meyer Spacks), curiosity (Barbara M. Benedict), enthusiasm (Clement Hawes), joy (Adam Potkay), happiness (Vivasvan Soni), melancholy (Thomas Pfau), and wonder (Sarah Tindal Kareem), to name just a few.

Christopher R. Miller’s Surprise stands at once within and outside of this critical turn. Whereas the studies mentioned above are animated, for the most part, by an...

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