Narrating anger and sympathy in the condition of england: the role of emotion in mid-nineteenth-century politics and fiction
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The Condition-of-England Question - a series of discussions that involve commentary on the state of relations between disparate groups and classed subjects - contains a nexus of competing and overlapping discourses, as well as an attention to feelings such as anger and to the comnumication of feeling that comprises sympathy. It evolves through the interrogative methodologies of moral philosophy, Romantic idealism, political radicalism, and the cultural assumptions that guide literary production and consumption. Condition-of-England novels, such as Elizabeth Gaskell' s Mmy Barton (1848) and Charles Kingsley's Alton Locke (1850), demonstrate the Carlylean premise that moral and social improvements within the body politic require a mediated reaction to the escalating discontent that characterized the nation in the period surrounding the reform acts. In this dissertation I analyze how authors and political leaders are impelled to address social and political problems through the representation of feeling and its communication. This dissertation affirms that anger, existing as a potentially corrective call for attention and action, is elemental for the formation of collective identities based on class or political beliefs. As such, it remains pertinent to Victorian debates of political reform and representation. In literary culture, anger and sympathy are conceptualized as narrative forces by which to address the declining spiritual and material conditions of England; they become considerations in the organization of plot lines or episodes, and they exist, whether named or not, in descriptions of literary protagonists, political leaders, and philosophers. Using an interdisciplinary approach that includes social history, philosophy, theories of emotion, close readings, and rhetorical analysis, I examine the epistemology of feeling and its relation to social and political critique by comparing the philosophical and practical continuities between discourses of the sentiments and passions in the eighteenth century with discourses of feeling in the mid-nineteenth century. This includes extending my scope not only to include novels, but also philosophical treatises, periodical publications, and serialized fiction. My focus does not lie with envisioning anger as something adversative to sympathy, as much philosophical and sociological critique has implied, but in whether antisocial feelings such as anger have acknowledged social benefits. If sympathy is not any one feeling, but the interpersonal communication of feeling, then the changing discourses of sympathy in the nineteenth century imply a rethinking of the social functions of all emotion, including anger.