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Title: Many-sided sympathy and the science of religion in George Eliot, Vernon Lee, and Edna Lyall
Author: Barnette, Sarah
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 1697
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Discourse on sympathy in mid-to-late nineteenth-century Britain took place in many intellectual contexts, including philosophy, aesthetics, evolutionary science, and physiological psychology. Concomitantly, the science of religion was a rising enterprise that largely transferred the study of religion from theologians to philologists, cultural evolutionists, and anthropologists as it sought to produce a comparative, systematic account of the growth and nature of religious belief. This thesis contends that these ostensibly disparate aspects of the intellectual climate overlapped in the literary marketplace as women writers combined the popular and specialized researches of each, both in answer to public anxieties these discourses fostered and in an effort to wield their fiction to ethical, social, and political purpose. It considers the fiction of three women with very various backgrounds, intellectual pursuits, and writing styles - that of George Eliot (1819-1880), Vernon Lee (1856-1935), and Edna Lyall (1857-1903) - and sets their work side by side to discern a common thread running through their oeuvres: a pattern of fictional 'many-sided' male sympathetic figures arranged to balance broad tolerance with specific function and achieve a form of modern spirituality for the benefit of the reader and society at large. Translated from the German Vielseitigkeit in the 1830s, the term 'manysidedness' initially entered the lexicon to describe the multi-faceted mind of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), whose influence sat at the heart of much of the science of religion initiative. By mid-century it became a conduit for thinking about sympathy via its close association with positions of tolerance, impartiality, and acculturation. Intentionalist in nature and experimenting with 'surface reading' as methodology, this research has resulted in a fruitful exploration of sympathy both as a form of 'doubling' and as a continual intellectual and emotional unfolding akin to the interpretation of manysidedness as a model of self-cultivation. Each author is examined in light of her affinity with a male thinker: Eliot is paired with the philologist and scholar of comparative religion, Friedrich Max Müller (1823-1900); Lee is viewed in relation to the aestheticism of her friend Walter Pater (1839-1894); Lyall is explored through her compassionate response to the suffering of the freethinker Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891).
Supervisor: Ballaster, Ros ; Shuttleworth, Sally Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available