24 April 2017

Review: The Surprising Effects of Sympathy by David Marshall

Hardcover, 286 pages
Published 1988
Borrowed from the library
Read August 2016
The Surprising Effects of Sympathy: Marivaux, Diderot, Rousseau, and Mary Shelley
by David Marshall

This is one of those academic books that has a very broad-sounding supertitle that seduces one, when one should pay more attention to the details of the subtitle. David Marshall is interested in the relationship between theatre, spectacle, and sympathy in the works of a number of French writers-- in very specific detail. So I, who have an interest in the relationship between sympathy and sight, found little of interest here because I don't really care about Marivaux, Diderot, and Rousseau. Some of his claims about the dangers these writers saw in sympathy are interesting ("The danger […] is finally not that we might not believe other people, but that we might not believe in them" [134]), but he restricts himself to close reading most of the time. And of course I have tons of interest in Frankentein, but his reading of Frankenstein in light of Shelley's interest in Rousseau seemed to close off the text rather than open it up-- I felt like it didn't offer much to someone who wasn't already interested in Rousseau. I want to read other people's takes on sympathy in Frankenstein, and this book did not provide me with what I was looking for.

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