March 17, 2005


Sympathy. It has rhetorical uses (e.g. Mrs. Jane, could you please excuse my absence, I was so sick that I could barely move my head without feeling as though my entire body would explode from the enormity of the pain..."). The desired effect will be that the person will agree in feeling with the person in need of sympathy. It is a kind of agreement in feeling, bothness, so to speak. It has physiological meaning: the sympathetic nervous system, and sympathy pain.

Sympathy also has a literary heritage. One might call to mind de Stael's novel Corinne, or Italy, perhaps Clarissa, Sense and Sensibility... and later in American literature works such as Uncle Tom's Cabin. Sympathy is deployed differently in each of these works. De Stael's work uses the body of her heroine to project a sympathetic view of Italy and southern Italy for a northern Europe who believed the south to be somewhat renegade. Richardson's conduct novel warned against the dangers of sympathy, and Austen's articulates a particular balance between sentiment and sense. Stowe uses overt sympathy to garner support to build a stronger abolitionist movement. Each of these, though categorized as "sentimental" make rhetorical use of sympathy. I am told, however, that sympathy has other uses in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Any suggestions?

Posted by c_jane at March 17, 2005 8:20 AM | TrackBack