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Title: The Pathos of Modernism: Henry James, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein (With a Coda on J.M. Coetzee)
Authors: Dauber, Maayan Paula
Advisors: DiBattista, Maria
Brooks, Peter
Contributors: English Department
Keywords: James
Subjects: Literature
American literature
British and Irish literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: "On or about December 1910, human character changed," writes Virginia Woolf in 1924. Deliberately absurd in the precision of its dating, the sentence neatly registers a tipping point in a development that had been gathering force for nearly a hundred years. By the turn of the century, the loss of religious faith, the influence of psychology in raising questions about moral agency, and a widespread sense of dislocation and anomie had come to plague the novelists of the period. What did this change mean for the novel, and what did it mean for readers and writers? What kinds of persons could the novel now represent, and what kind of relationship could readers and other characters be expected to form with them? The Pathos of Modernism explores these questions of changing subjectivity and the new emotional economy these changes produced. Pathos, a term from ancient Greek rhetoric and dramaturgy, is an affect of distance, opacity, and ephemerality. It is an emotion that registers the inability of subjects to connect quite as intimately as they once did, asking instead that people be witnesses to each other's losses and sorrows. This is a turn away from the traditional novel and theories of sentiment by thinkers like Adam Smith and David Hume that it inherited. For while sympathy, the primary emotional register of the realist novel, asks people to share in each other's pain, pathos understands that such a request has become in the modernist period not only unanswerable but unethical. This is the situation of Virginia Woolf's Victorian Mr. Ramsay, whose request for sympathy feels more like a demand, a form of narcissism meant to subsume the needs, desires and even personalities of his peers. Henry James, Gertrude Stein (and J.M. Coetzee) represent a similar degradation of sympathy. Yet the eschewal of sympathy does not mean the dismissal of all affective investment or all potential for ethical engagement. And charting pathos as a new affective mode more suited to a new subject, the modernists offer an emotional economy that demands its own form of ethical action.  
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:English

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