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Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

Rae Greiner

Publication Year: 2012

Rae Greiner proposes that sympathy is integral to the form of the classic nineteenth-century realist novel. Following the philosophy of Adam Smith, Greiner argues that sympathy does more than foster emotional identification with others; it is a way of thinking along with them. By abstracting emotions, feelings turn into detached figures of speech that may be shared. Sympathy in this way produces realism; it is the imaginative process through which the real is substantiated. In Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction Greiner shows how this imaginative process of sympathy is written into three novelistic techniques regularly associated with nineteenth-century fiction: metonymy, free indirect discourse, and realist characterization. She explores the work of sentimentalist philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, and Jeremy Bentham and realist novelists Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Henry James.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

But a good deal of thanks is due to many others. For their inspiration and tireless support during my time in graduate school, I want to recognize Michael Mascuch, Kevis Goodman, Charles Altieri, Richard Halpern, Catherine Gallagher, Sharon Marcus, Kamilla Elliot, Kaja Silverman, and James Turner. In the...

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Introduction: Thinking of Me Thinking of You: Sympathetic Realism

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pp. 1-14

This book began in an effort to prove that one could write about sympathy in nineteenth-century fiction without writing about emotion. Emotions, I decided at the outset, are pesky and unruly creatures, hard to describe and still harder to define; it might be better just to avoid them. I had what I considered good reasons...

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1. Going Along with Others: Adam Smith and the Realists

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pp. 15-49

Contrasting three approaches to literary realism—that of medieval typology, Ian Watt’s “formal realism,” and the causal realism of novelists like George Eliot— Marshall Brown concludes that realism is “an attribute, a quality, an impression created by the novel.” Not “something ‘in’ the novel but the novel’s impact on...

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2. The Art of Knowing Your Own Nothingness: Bentham, Austen, and the Realist Case

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pp. 50-85

The previous chapter characterized the reality represented in nineteenth-century fiction as irreducible to objects that may be said to exist outside human language and thought. Devoted instead to portraying the texture of experienced life—the grain of historical reality, in the past and in the present—the realist novel...

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3. Dickensian Sympathy: Translation in the Proper Pitch

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pp. 86-121

We began our investigation of sympathy’s formal protocols by focusing on its qualities of abstraction, noting sympathy’s deep dependence on the strength or weakness of our ideas. “To conceive or to imagine” pain, writes Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS), “excites some degree of the same...

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4. Not Getting to Know You: Sympathetic Detachment

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pp. 122-156

Of the metaphors used to characterize nineteenth-century literary realism—its ethos and methods—the mirror is arguably the most persistent. Holding mirrors to nature, the realists are said to offer reflections of and on the world by concentrating uncommon attention on common objects and rendering them without...

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CODA: Sympathy versus Empathy: The Ends of Sympathy at Century’s End

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pp. 157-161

I began this book by arguing that the sympathetic foundation of nineteenth-century realist form is evident in some of realism’s most familiar narrative practices. I outlined how realist metonymy, for instance, once released from strict mimetic indexing, facilitates realism’s historicist project by emphasizing the...


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pp. 163-176


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pp. 177-195


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pp. 197-203

E-ISBN-13: 9781421407456
E-ISBN-10: 1421407450
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421406534
Print-ISBN-10: 1421406535

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 822667313
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

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Subject Headings

  • English fiction -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Realism in literature.
  • Sympathy in literature.
  • Rhetoric -- History -- 19th century.
  • Fiction -- Technique.
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