The Virtue of Sympathy

Magic, Philosophy, and Literature in Seventeenth-Century England

Seth Lobis

View Inside Price: $85.00

January 6, 2015
432 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300192032

Beginning with an analysis of Shakespeare’s The Tempest and building to a new reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost, author Seth Lobis charts a profound change in the cultural meaning of sympathy during the seventeenth century. Having long referred to magical affinities in the universe, sympathy was increasingly understood to be a force of connection between people. By examining sympathy in literary and philosophical writing of the period, Lobis illuminates an extraordinary shift in human understanding.
Seth Lobis teaches in the Literature Department at Claremont McKenna College, focusing on British literature from 1500 to 1800.

“Lobis offers a wide-ranging intellectual and literary history of sympathy in seventeenth-century England, demonstrating how it becomes a key subject of philosophical debate and literary representation.  His discussion of the sources and complexities of sympathy brings an important new lens to bear on major literary authors such as John Milton and Margaret Cavendish, with equally insightful readings of such later authors as James Thomson, Mary Shelley, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.”—Laura Knoppers, University of Notre Dame

“[A]n erudite and insightful volume that . . . demonstrates how closely intertwined were natural and moral conceptions of sympathy during the seventeenth and indeed far into the nineteenth century.”—Anne-Julia Zwierlein, Milton Quarterly

“Rich in close attention to text, the book is in many ways a browser’s paradise, replete with minute observations, luxuriant quotations, and revelatory anecdotes.”—Sarah Hutton, Renaissance Quarterly

“Fascinating . . . [Lobis] challenge[s] the lingering contention that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a univocal transition from the communal and sensual to the private and rational.”—Katherine Eggert, SEL