| In his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Samuel Johnson defined sympathy as “Fellowfeeling; mutual sensibility; the quality of being affected by the affection of another.” As a notion of mutual affection, or, in its later version, the human ability to partake of the feelings and sentiments of another, sympathy is ubiquitous in late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century literature and culture. It guarantees sociability.
This seminar will focus on figurations of sympathy in a broad range of literary texts and genres as well as moral philosophy and poetic theory. In a second step, leaving the eighteenth century, we shall explore the refigurations of sympathy as an aesthetic concept during Romanticism and beyond.
A moodle platform including most primary texts will be provided. Most of the primary texts will be relatively short or extracts only. However, we shall study a – very long – key text in detail: Samuel Richardson’s novel Clarissa, Or The History of a Young Lady. You will need to have your own copy (Penguin Classics, or – this would be acceptable for our purposes – the Signet Classics abridged version).
The Lektürekurs will offer scope for the study and discussion of additional primary sources and relevant recent theory.