Maria Marchidanu

Sympathy: A Mirror of Sensibility or Individuality?

The paper examines the theme of sympathy in connection to the self in Mary Brunton’s debut novel Self-Control (1811). By focusing upon Brunton’s representation of the female protagonist’s identity, the paper analyses the link between the individual and morality as represented in nineteenth-century women’s writing.

My paper illustrates sympathy as an instrument of reflecting the rapport between the protagonist’s individuality and her relationship with others. Additionally, this examination considers sympathy as a concept extending beyond the Scottish Enlightenment views concerning the moral benefit of the community, in particular depicted within Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). Through the example of Brunton’s novel, the paper reframes sympathy from an individual rather than social perspective, illustrating it as a condition for female autonomy. Effectively, the paper highlights the connection between Self-Control and Kantian writings on the individual, illustrating a comparison between nineteenth-century Scottish women’s writing and European philosophy.

Thus, the paper examines the theme of sympathy within Self-Control as a reflection of female individuality, moving from Enlightenment representations of the self in a collective context of morality, to Kantian philosophy, highlighting nineteenth-century Scottish women’s writing as a link between the Scottish Enlightenment and European philosophy.

Maria Marchidanu, University of Glasgow