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Empathy and the Psychology of Literary Modernism$
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Meghan Marie Hammond

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748690985

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748690985.001.0001

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Virginia Woolf and the Limits of Empathy

Virginia Woolf and the Limits of Empathy

(p.148) Chapter 5 Virginia Woolf and the Limits of Empathy
Empathy and the Psychology of Literary Modernism

Meghan Marie Hammond

Edinburgh University Press

Chapter Five, “Virginia Woolf and the Limits of Empathy,” examines a late modernist withdrawal from the empathic experience of oneness. Woolf’s texts back away from the “unmediated” representation identified with modernist empathy, mirroring contemporaneous claims about empathy and the experience of foreign consciousness made by Edith Stein and Edmund Husserl. The seeds of this withdrawal are apparent in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929) and her high modernist novel The Waves (1931), but become clearer still in Three Guineas (1938) and in the late modernist novel Between the Acts (1941). Stein and Husserl’s understanding of empathy returns to the intersubjective distance that marks earlier conceptions of fellow feeling, including that of Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen. Ultimately, Woolf’s work confirms the inherent instability of empathic modernism.

Keywords:   Virginia Woolf, Edith Stein, Husserl, empathy, sympathy, collective, gender, feminism

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