What does it feel like to read a novel? For Georges Poulet, it feels like lending out one's mind to another: in reading, he writes, “I am thinking the thoughts of another. . . . I think [those thoughts] as my very own” (Poulet 55–56). For D. A. Miller, by contrast, it feels like a confirmation of our identities as liberal subjects—that is, subjects “whose private life, mental or domestic, is felt to provide constant inarguable evidence of [our] constitutive ‘freedom’” (Miller x). For Rae Greiner, by contrast, reading novels—particularly novels written in the nineteenth century in England—feels like sympathy, an experience that she defines, following Adam Smith, as that “of ‘going along with’ others” (16). This is neither the mind-meld of Poulet nor the interpellative nightmare of Miller. Nor is it pity or compassion—feelings that are often...
Thinking with Others
rachel ablow is the author of The Marriage of Minds: Reading Sympathy in the Victorian Marriage Plot (2007) and the editor of The Feeling of Reading: Affective Experience and Victorian Literature (2010). She is currently working on a book on pain in Victorian literature and culture.
Rachel Ablow; Thinking with Others. Novel 1 August 2015; 48 (2): 289–291. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2882729
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