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    Sympathy

    Burdett, Carolyn (2018) Sympathy. In: Hartley, L. (ed.) History of British Women's Writing, 1830-1880. History of British Women's Writing 6. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137584656. (In Press)

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    Abstract

    The Victorians inherited powerful languages of feeling as a source of right action from the eighteenth-century moral philosophers and the Romantics. Sympathy was amongst the most important of such langauges, and was powerfully mobilized as a response to the material and social challenges of industrialism. Elizabeth Gaskell made it the medium for binding within, and reaching across, class and gender boundaries in both Mary Barton and North and South. For Gaskell, sympathy is supported by the Christian principle of God’s self-giving love. However, sympathy was also, and increasingly, co-opted into secular debates. This chapter argues that, by the 1870s, sympathy was under conceptual strain as a result. Evolutionary and related theories presented it as a hardwired product of natural selection, while George Henry Lewes declared sympathy a great psychological ‘mystery’, as yet unexplained. It was, of course, George Eliot who had done as much as any other Victorian writer to redefine sympathy as a moral force for secular times. In Middlemarch, she provides her most finely textured portrait of a sympathetic woman in Dorothea Brooke. In her next and final novel, Daniel Deronda, however, sympathy is no longer an unquestioned good for the novel’s male protagonist, Daniel. But nor is it clear that sympathy can help save Gwendolen Harleth. Burdett argues that, in Daniel Deronda, Eliot pushes sympathy and realism beyond their limits, leaving both Gwendolen and the domestic novel in a fragile and unsettled place.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Book Section
    Additional Information: This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available at the link above.
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Research Centres and Institutes: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: Carolyn Burdett
    Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2019 13:01
    Last Modified: 16 Jun 2021 10:19
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/16305

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