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Title: Intimate encounters : sympathy in the modernist and contemporary novel
Author: Nagy-Seres, I.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7962 8991
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores ideas of sympathy in the works of modernist authors D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen, and contemporary novelist Ian McEwan. Read in parallel with Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology, this study argues that in the selected modernist and contemporary texts sympathy takes place between feeling bodies that exist in constant interaction with each other and the world. My chosen authors challenge the view that fellow feeling is synonymous with gaining rational knowledge of other minds; on the contrary, their works suggest that feeling for and with others often transcends the limits of cognition. As such, obtaining a clear view of other minds cannot only fail to lead to intimacy but it can even be considered violent and dangerous. The authors at the centre of this thesis are suspicious of hyper-visibility because they associate it with desires for subordination and possession, ideas that acquire an unprecedented urgency in the aftermath of the First and Second World Wars. Instead of clear sight and rational knowledge, my chosen writers place sympathy in a semi-luminous zone of ambiguity, where the other's contours remain blurred and not easily discernible yet this haziness allows for the emergence of an alternative 'manner of seeing' rooted in affective attention to the fragile human body. As such, this thesis shows the existence of a different kind of modernism that is interested in haziness instead of clarity, soft flesh instead of hard biological matter, and imperfection instead of totality. The last chapter of this study, dedicated to McEwan's engagement with modernist legacies, argues that modernist ideas about fellow feeling are still relevant in twenty-first-century literature, continuing to energise and challenge contemporary thinking.
Supervisor: Martin, K. ; Salisbury, L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available