In Romantic Intimacy, a subtle and cogent intervention, Nancy Yousef begins with a problematic dimension of eighteenth-century moral philosophy, attending to the dissonance between skeptical accounts of perception and confident renditions of intersubjective dynamics such as sympathy. Hoping to save sympathy from scrutiny, philosophers such as the Earl of Shaftesbury, Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith typically suspend the epistemic grounding for moral relations but thereby produce a sharp disjunction between their theories of perception and of relation, creating a productive difficulty. Furthermore, Yousef argues, by relying on the assumption that sympathy must take shape as mutuality, reciprocity, or other forms of equality and similitude—a notion that survives even in the work of Immanuel Kant, who makes of mutuality an aspirational ideal at some distance from lived relations—eighteenth-century theorists cut through the far greater complexity of those relations, which transpire...
Beyond Mutuality: The Surprising Possibilities of Nonreciprocal Relationship
david collings is professor of English at Bowdoin College and the author of Wordsworthian Errancies: The Poetics of Cultural Dismemberment (1994), Monstrous Society: Reciprocity, Discipline, and the Political Uncanny, c. 1780–1848 (2009), and Stolen Future, Broken Present: The Human Significance of Climate Change (2014). He is co-editor, with Michael O'Rourke, of Queer Romanticisms (2004–5) and, with Jacques Khalip, of Romanticism and Disaster (2012). His work in progress is provisionally called “Disastrous Subjectivities: Romanticism, Catastrophe, and the Real.”
David Collings; Beyond Mutuality: The Surprising Possibilities of Nonreciprocal Relationship. Novel 1 August 2015; 48 (2): 296–299. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2882761
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