Pursuing my earlier theory of strategic narrative empathy, this essay shows Thomas Hardy's bounded strategic empathy for his fictional creations, Wessex countrymen and women; his ambassadorial strategic empathy for animals and select members of despised outgroups; and his broadcast strategic empathy for feeling humanity in an indifferent, Godless universe. Hardy's work demonstrates engagement with a variety of empathetic narrative strategies outlined in my Empathy and the Novel (2007), from the fellow-feeling of eighteenth-century moral sentimentalism, to the role-taking imagining of Romanticism, to the projection of feeling onto inanimate objects theorized by late-nineteenth-century German aesthetics as Einfühlung. Hardy's diction and notes show his knowledge of the related concepts, sympathy and altruism. At the time, sympathy (feeling for someone) was differentiated from empathy (feeling with someone); and for Hardy, altruism (nowadays seen as a consequence of empathy and sympathy) included such empathy. Hardy's strategic empathizing in his novels, in his epic poem The Dynasts, and in some of his shorter verses, I argue, links his representational strategies to his evolutionary meliorism and his belief that individual altruism might yet alleviate the painful drama of human existence. The essay details Hardy's employment of aesthetic Einfühlung to represent inanimate objects, to feel with the dead, and, paradoxically, to imagine the evolution of consciousness on the part of the unfeeling Immanent Will.
Suzanne Keen; Empathetic Hardy: Bounded, Ambassadorial, and Broadcast Strategies of Narrative Empathy. Poetics Today 1 June 2011; 32 (2): 349–389. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-1162695
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