The scrutiny of pity as a cardinal altruistic attribute has emerged in the last two decades as a significant common denominator in disciplines ranging from philosophy to social psychology and comparative literature to gender studies. Pity is a term and concept of tremendous importance to a historian and interpreter of the humanities and social sciences. It is a prism through which to examine how given cultures attach value to nonrational components of social life and of human flourishing. Sánchez describes how an appeal to a reader's sense of traditional pity in the writings of French philosophers, pedagogues, social theorists, and novelists interacted, in the sociopolitical sphere of the de-siËcle, with the interest in studying and promoting this very virtue as a principle of social attachment.
This study brings to light striking parallels from one de-siËcle to another, highlighting the extensive rhetorical and emotive investment of various French disciplines in both probing and promoting pity. In doing so, a number of French thinkers and writers, both major and subsequently ignored, forged a cognitive theory of sentiments that intriguingly presages contemporary theories. They also codified a discursively and rhetorically doctrinaire pity that was reflected in pedagogy, especially female education; political philosophy and psychology; literary criticism and fiction―in ways that are still instructive for us today.
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Describes how an appeal to a reader's sense of traditional pity in the writings of French philosophers, social theorists, and novelists interacted with the interest in studying and promoting the virtue within society.About the Author :
GONZALO J. SÁNCHEZ JR. is Professor of Liberal Arts at the Juilliard School. Educated at Columbia, he has published extensively in 19th-century European cultural history. His previous teaching assignments include both Columbia and Boston Universities, and he received fellowships from the French Government (Chateaubriand), the American Philosophical Society, and Columbia University. He was also a Visiting Scholar at the Centre national de recherche scientifique, Paris.
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