Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Trinity Term 2018: Sympathy limits in Daniel Deronda
Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking required.
From the 1860s sympathy emerged as a key term in naturalistic dispute about mechanisms of evolution and the relation of human to animal life. This paper argues that we need to look closely at these debates in order to have a fuller account of the role sympathy played in the ethical and artistic changes of the ‘end’ of Victorianism. Sympathy’s part in its own vanishing conditions during the final three decades of the nineteenth century has not yet been fully explained. As literary historians invariably turn to George Eliot to help grasp the scope and power of secular modern sympathy, I go to her final novel, Daniel Deronda, to find insight about its waning. While sympathy is explicitly referenced on more occasions in Daniel Deronda than in any other of Eliot’s fictions, many readers have noted profound changes that propel the narrative simultaneously beyond both sympathy and realism. Might sympathy, paradoxically, be a key to grasping why Eliot’s last novel is full of terror and dread, magic and divination, Gothicism and melodrama? I conclude by briefly suggesting that sympathy in the final decades of the nineteenth century is part of the same nexus of concepts that produce a new term, empathy, seen by some in the twenty-first century to have largely replaced sympathy in referencing affective and ethical capacity.
22 May 2018, 17:30 (Tuesday, 5th week, Trinity 2018)
St Anne's College, Woodstock Road OX2 6HS
Seminar Room 3
Carolyn Burdett (Birkbeck, University of London)
Faculty of English Language and Literature
Rachel Henning (University of Oxford)
Organiser contact email address:
Professor Sally Shuttleworth (Faculty of English Language & Literature, University of Oxford)