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This dissertation examines the modes and functions of sympathy as they are represented in three forms of modern literature. By assessing the sympathetic aspects of these three popular narratives, I clarify the process by which modern authors have sought to communicate such emotion at the level of the body. The texts studied in this dissertation reflect forms of narrative sympathy as they are presented and communicated through different historical literary periods. These periods include Romanticism, reflected in the novel Frankenstein; the Victorian period, illustrated by the novel Jane Eyre, and Postmodernism, demonstrated in the novel Beloved. The major strategies used to examine the sympathetic import of these novels are character analysis, scene analysis, textual symbolism, and an assessment of the feelings associated with reading. Numerous philosophical texts and articles have been used to enhance commentary on the primary literary works. This dissertation challenges the notion of sympathy that is naturally born of an individual. Some view the feeling as a sensation which manifests purely from the individual consciousness, but more accurately, sympathies conform to one's history, society and environment. Each of these influences compels either the maintenance or dismissal of emotions that one might hold in the perception of an object, or the confrontation of an idea. Each of the texts examined in this dissertation moves beyond the conventional forms of literary sympathy to display how the forces of history, society, and environment physically interact with both readers and characters to produce their sympathetic feelings and behaviors.
Sensation, Affect, Literature, Feeling, Beloved, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, Sympathy
Date of Defense
March 18, 2011.
A Dissertation Submitted to the Department of Interdisciplinary Humanities in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
James O’Rourke, Professor Directing Dissertation; Maxine Jones, University Representative; Barry Faulk, Committee Member; Meegan Kennedy, Committee Member; Candace Ward, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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