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Title: Empathy and narcissism in the work of Molière
Author: Passamani, Elise Gabrielle
ISNI:       0000 0004 5056 2861
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The aim of this thesis is to explore the comic art of Molière through the lens of empathy and narcissism, and reciprocally, to show that Molière nourishes Western thought about these phenomena, which can be viewed as opposite ends of a continuum. Every personality has some of each, but the unbalanced egoist has excessive self-love and cannot put himself in another's place. The narcissist is omnipresent in Molière's theatre, but has been heretofore unidentified as such in criticism. This work attempts to fill this gap, and accordingly, my corpus encompasses his 33 extant plays. Furthermore, these psychological concepts are inherently theatrical, especially with respect to whether or not spectators recognize themselves in characters on stage. There is a dialectic relation between reconnaissance and empathy or antipathy, and, therefore, laughter. Hence, empathy and narcissism provide a way of looking at characters on stage and at the interaction between the dramatic action and the audience. To explore the former, I investigate endogenous words Molière uses to convey empathy and narcissism; how he portrays empathizers and narcissists visually through their adherence to and breaking of social codes; and how cognition influences their ability to change. For the latter, I demonstrate how early modern querelles surrounding Molière's plays involve these notions; and how his metatheatrical discourses reveal that Molière transports his spectators 'hors de soi': a state that mirrors romantic love and provides pleasure. Taken in this framework, I argue that Molière's work can be seen as anti-narcissistic; if his spectators knew themselves in the mirror he held up, laughing was a means of precluding blind empathy. Thus, employing tools from modern psychology and neuroscience and notions from the seventeenth century, this thesis evaluates how Molière's characters provide us, today, with a means for better understanding the place of narcissism in our occidental world.
Supervisor: Viala, Alain Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Dramatic arts ; Languages (Medieval and Modern) and non-English literature ; Literatures of Romance languages ; French