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I began this book by arguing that the sympathetic foundation of nineteenthcentury 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 causal and contextual relationships ordering historical life. Yet we also saw that by comparing one’s point-of-view to that of an imagined other, or scrutinizing that viewpoint from a perspective outside it, historicist thinking of this kind operated in tandem with the sympathetic process, sharing its basic assumptions and relying on its protocols. From that starting point, my argument moved on to investigate further how several nineteenth-century writers incorporated sympathetic protocols into their fictional projects: in Jeremy Bentham’s sympathetic grammar, with its stress on virtual emotion, anticipated or potential rather than experienced feeling; in Charles Dickens’s tongue-tied aphasics, standing in need of sympathetic semantic assistance. These examples highlighted sympathy’s partiality , the imperfect approximations to be forged with others and, sometimes, with ourselves. These didn’t last; they were fictive and incomplete. But they made social reality possible by making it possible to feel confidently that others were “going along” with us (Smith TMS 83). As the metonymic realism of Dickens and Eliot shifted at the fin de siècle toward the modernist poetics of fiction associated with Conrad and James, another transformation was also under way. A new concept, empathy, had been gaining significance, and was being used to mark the transition from one psychologicalaesthetic paradigm to another. That shift is often seen as a flat rejection of sympathetic realism. As Stephen Arata argues, the “turn away from sympathy . . . c o d a Sympathy versus Empathy The Ends of Sympathy at Century’s End 158 s y m p a t h e t i c r e a l i s m was perceived by many as the defining feature of late-Victorian realism” (178). From this view, Heath Moon’s assessment of James’s The Sacred Fount seems more exception than rule, though one suspects empathy, not sympathy, to be his intended subject. The novel is modernist, he says, in featuring “not a contemptuous distance between author and character but close imaginative sympathy.” Its primary effects are achieved through an “exploration of subjective worlds, of unusual psychological states, and the interpenetration of inner and outer worlds” (141). Moon describes an enhanced and improved sympathy, but empathy is the term typically used to describe this more intimately psychologized and “poetical fusing of consciousness and reality.”1 The notion of “poetical fusing” is key. For just as fusion—or its lack thereof—distinguishes metaphor from metonymy, the desire to fuse with others—or lack thereof—distinguishes empathy from sympathy as we have defined it. Thus, this book’s final claim: we should recognize that nineteenth-century metonymic realism entails a commitment to sympathetic, more than empathetic, relations, evidence of which can be seen in its rejection of the tropes (and ideal) of fusion. Likewise, empathy, rather than sympathy, is better affiliated with modernism’s symbolic project. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy credits the British psychologist Edward Bradford Titchener with translating the German word Einfühlung into English , introducing “empathy” into the vocabulary in 1909.2 He was one among many prominent thinkers attempting to overhaul or replace the term “sympathy” so as to better explain how feeling-with-others gives rise to aesthetic experience.3 These writers (Vernon Lee among them) were indebted to the German philosophers Robert Vischer and Theodor Lipps, who from the 1870s onward had given the concept of Einfühlung, already important to philosophical aesthetics, a much wider significance. Einfühlung, in Vischer’s view, described the way humans projected emotion into aesthetic objects so as to animate our relationship to the phenomenal world: it was a “feeling into” of the self into aesthetic form.4 For Lipps, Einfühlung was a process in which the boundary between subject and object , now called an “ego object,” disappeared.5 Aesthetic experience resulted from an empathetic fusion of forms, art object and self. Lipps considered this process so essential to human understanding that he presented it as the engine of selfconsciousness . That I am able to have a self, he believed, depends on my ability to humanize objects, including the object that is myself. Moreover, my ability to “feel into” myself allows me to comprehend the feelings of others...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781421407456
Related ISBN
9781421406534
MARC Record
OCLC
822667313
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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