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Empathy and the Psychology of Literary Modernism

Meghan Marie Hammond

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Shows how fin de siècle conceptions of empathy are woven into the fabric of literary modernism

Empathy is a cognitive and affective structure of feeling, a bridge across interpersonal distance. Coined in 1909 to combine English ‘sympathy’ and German ‘Einfühlung,’ ‘empathy’ is a specifically twentieth-century concept of fellow feeling. Empathy and the Psychology of Literary Modernism looks into the little-known history of empathy, revealing how this multi-faceted concept had a profound effect on literary modernism.

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About the Author

Meghan Marie Hammond received her PhD in English from New York University and teaches at the University of Chicago. She is co-editor of the collection Rethinking Empathy Through Literature (2014). Her next book is a history of the corpse in modern literature. She is the author of several published articles and chapters including, ‘English Review, American Specter: The Critical Attitude Crosses the Atlantic’ in Ford Madox Ford and America, edited by Sara Haslam and Seamus O’Malley; ‘Henry James’s Autobiography and Early Psychology’, in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies; and Moby Dick for The Nautilus: A Maritime Journal of Literature, History, and Culture.

Reviews

The modernist desire to get inside the minds of others has been much commented upon, but Meghan Marie Hammond shows brilliantly that the resulting dissolution of psychological distance was actually something writers both desired and feared. Hammond’s subtle exploration of this rich ambivalence will take many readers back to familiar works with new thoughts in mind.


Peter Nicholls, New York University


 


 


Focusing on the interaction between pre-Freudian psychology and modernist literature, Hammond’s original study makes a powerful case that modernism coincides with – and contributes to – a cultural shift from the concept of ‘sympathy’ to one of ‘empathy’. Her illuminating readings reveal the centrality of empathy to the entire modernist project.



Max Saunders, Director, Arts and Humanities Research Institute, King’s College London

- Peter Nicholls, New York University & Max Saunders, King's College London

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