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The Literature of Pity

David Punter

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Traces an entire history of pity, as an emotion and as an element in the arts

Pity represents a combination of fear, helplessness and overwhelming agitation. It is a term which suffuses our everyday lives; it is also a dangerous term hovering between approval of sympathy and disapproval of emotional wallowing (as in 'self-pity').

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Chapter One: Distinguishing pity
Chapter Two: Pity and terror: the Aristotelian framework
Chapter Three: Pietà
Chapter Four: Shakespeare on pity
Chapter Five: The eighteenth century
Chapter Six: Blake: ‘Pity would be no more …’
Chapter Seven: Aspects of Victoriana
Chapter Eight: Chekhov and Brecht: pity and self-pity
Chapter Nine: ‘War, and the pity of war’: Wilfred Owen, David Jones, Primo Levi
Chapter Ten: Reflections on Algernon Blackwood’s Gothic
Chapter Eleven: Pity’s cold extremities: Jean Rhys and Stevie Smith
Chapter Twelve: Reclaiming the savage night
Chapter Thirteen: ‘Pity the poor immigrant’: pity, diaspora, the colony
Chapter Fourteen: Lyric and pity
After thought: under the dome

About the Author

David Punter, having worked at universities in England, Scotland, Hong Kong and China, is now Professor of English at the University of Bristol. He has published over twenty monographs and edited collections in the Gothic, romantic writing, modern and contemporary writing, and literary theory. His most recent publications include Writing the Passions (2000); Postcolonial Imaginings: Fictions of a New World Order (2000); Metaphor (2007); Modernity (2007); Rapture: Literature, Addiction, Secrecy (2009); and A New Companion to the Gothic, (ed., 2012). He has also published five volumes of poetry.