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The Tyranny of Empathy: Feeling, Sentiment, and Propriety after the 18th Century (Graduate Student Conference)

Submitted by Ellwood Wiggins on February 14, 2021 - 12:23am
Conference Flyer

The Tyranny of Empathy:

Feeling, Sentiment, and Propriety after the 18th Century

University of Washington Graduate Student Conference

Sponsored by the Department of German Studies, with the Departments of Art History, English, Drama, and Spanish & Portuguese Studies

Wednesday, March 10, 1:30-5:30pm

In the 18th Century, Western thinkers took up the Enlightenment project of binding societies into a single narrative, which continues to define modern discourses on sentiment and propriety. Within this historic context, and its long legacy into modern thought, individual feelings that contradict the resulting social constructions have been pushed to the peripheries or banned altogether.  This complication of order and feeling seems to operate bilaterally: the subjective and individualized domain of “feeling” disrupts the desired simplicity of rules and regulations that seek to contain knowable societies, legible moral codes, and disciplined human subjects. Meanwhile, if sensation, affect, and emotion are oriented without frameworks, how can the human experience be unified and societies or individuals be imagined as interconnected? This conference seeks to wrestle with the precarious relationship between rules and feelings, reason and emotion, and ask how cultural and literary interventions of thought in/after the 18th century have worked to sculpt historical and modern optics on these perpetually entangled entities. 

Join us on zoom: https://washington.zoom.us/j/94029147389

If you have any issues joining the meeting, please contact Ellwood Wiggins: wiggins1@uw.edu

Full schedule and program

Conference Schedule

1.30-1.35pm Opening Remarks

Anna Malin Gerke (UW German)

Panel I: Emotion & Identity

Moderated by Kexin Song (UW English)

1.35-1.50pm - “Blank Mirror: Empathetic Roots of Individual Identity and Sentimental Literature's Mimetic Sanctuary in Frankenstein

Natalia Owen (UW Neuroscience)

1.50-2.05pm - “The murderous dissection of Arabella in Lessing's Miss Sara Sampson

Detlev Weber (UW German)

2.05-2.20pm - “Education and Emotion: The Influence of Self-judgment and Social Rules on Sentimental Women”

Sophia Schuessler (UW German)

2.20-2.35pm - Q&A, facilitated by Megan Butler (UW English)

Panel II: Empathy & Sentiment

Moderated by Detlev Weber (UW German)

2.40-2.55pm - “Sentimental Malfunctions in Her Mouth as Souvenir: The Legacy of Moral Sentimentality in Modern Dystopic Poetry”

Anne Duncan (UW English)

2.55-3.10pm - “Empathy and Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Dr. Charles Chesnut (UW English)

3.10-3.25pm - “The Anxiety of Death and the Logic of Sentimentality in A Sentimental Journey

Kexin Song (UW English)

3.25-3.40pm - Q&A, facilitated by Tori Champion (UW Art History)

3.40-4.00 pm, Intermission

Panel III: Literature & Culture

Moderated by Lexi Smith (UW Spanish and Portuguese)

4.00-4.15pm - “Rebels with a Cause:  Millwood, Wollstonecraft, and the Legacy of Milton’s Eve”

Megan Butler (UW English)

4.15-4.30pm - “Delineating the Passions: Charles Le Brun’s Conférence sur l'expression générale et particulière as Narrative Guide for 18th-Century Visual Artists”

Tori Champion (UW Art History)

4.30-4.45pm - “Taught to Love: G.E. Lessing’s Miss Sara Sampson and the 18th-Century Pedagogy of Affection”

Jonathan Rizzardi (UW Drama)

4.45-5.00pm - Q&A, facilitated by Detlev Weber (UW German)

Panel IV: Politics & Emotion

Moderated by Sophia Schuessler (UW German)

5.05-5.20pm - “‘My new beloved...is politics’: a Passionate Proposal for Chilean Citizenship in Martín Rivas

Lexi Smith (UW Spanish and Portuguese)

5.20-5.35pm - “Passionate Politics: Angela Merkel’s Emotional Rallying Call in Pandemic Speech”

Anna Malin Gerke (UW German)

5.35-5.45pm - Q&A and Closing Discussion, facilitated by Jonathan Rizzardi (UW Drama)


This graduate student conference is planned, organized, and conducted by the students in "Sense and Sensibility: Ethics and Emotions in the 18th Century" (German 590/English 524), winter 2021.

Special thanks to Dr. Charles Chestnut for generously providing refreshments for participants!

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