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Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

Rae Greiner proposes that sympathy is integral to the form of the classic nineteenth-century realist novel. Following the philosophy of Adam Smith, Greiner argues that sympathy does more than foster emotional identification with others; it is a way of thinking along with them. By abstracting emotions, feelings turn into detached figures of speech that may be shared. Sympathy in this way produces realism; it is the imaginative process through which the real is substantiated.

In Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction Greiner shows how this imaginative process of sympathy is written into three novelistic techniques regularly associated with nineteenth-century fiction: metonymy, free indirect discourse, and realist characterization. She explores the work of sentimentalist philosophers David Hume, Adam Smith, and Jeremy Bentham and realist novelists Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Henry James.

About the Author

Rae Greiner is an assistant professor of English at Indiana University and is coeditor of the journal Victorian Studies.

Endorsements

A highly accomplished, smart, and original piece of scholarship that will make a significant contribution to the august tradition of criticism and debate on the nineteenth-century British novel.

- Adela Pinch, University of Michigan

Reviews

Like the characters in the realist novels she analyses, Sympathetic Realism encourages us to think along with it.

- Stephanie Insley Hershinow - Victoriographies

The clarity of Greiner’s models of both sympathy and realism is one of the most remarkable features Sympathetic Realism, but it is often through her excellent close readings that these models came alive.

- Maia McAleavey - Wordsworth Circle

Among a spate of recent books on the topic, Rae Greiner's Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction distinguishes itself through its sustained focus on sympathy as a form rather than a feeling... It is not merely fitting, but exciting, to discover that a work dedicated to theorizing relations should itself pose a new relation between critical debates enjoying simultaneous, but heretofore separate, revivals of critical interest.

- Jesse Cordes Selbin - Qui Parle

Rae Greiner's Sympathetic Realism in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction is an ambitious, clever, and beautifully written study that promises to reorient our understanding of Victorian sympathy and the works of those who wrote about it and tried to trigger it... Greiner makes an excellent case for a reappraisal of the aims and accomplishments of realism... Her book is a welcome and erudite addition to a growing list of critical works on sympathy that defy the obviousness of the phenomenon they study and thus refresh our ability to consider what it is, was, and does.

- Carolyn Betensky - Nineteenth-Century Contexts

Greiner's readings are consistently smart and insightful.

- Rebecca N. Mitchell - Studies in the Novel

Sympathetic Realism is a rewarding, continually interesting book. It casts new light on major nineteenth-century realist novelists, while demonstrating that the realist frame of mind can be found in other kinds of writing as well. It contributes to the growing stream of criticism concerned with the ways in which narratives can help to create and strengthen our sense of self... Those who go along with Greiner will find the journey worthwhile.

- Harry E. Shaw - Victorian Studies

Sympathetic Realism is a rewarding, continually interesting book.

- Harry E. Shaw - Victorian Studies

In this invigorating book, Rae Greiner takes a familiar topic -- the workings of sympathy in nineteenth-century fiction -- and shows us how to think about it in new and highly productive ways... Building on a solid foundation provided by prior critics, Greiner makes a persuasive case for thinking anew about sympathy: what it is, how it works, and why it proved so vital to the development of novelistic realism.

- Stephen Arata - Modern Philology
Johns Hopkins University Press
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