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Chapter 2 explores the 1814 collaboration between Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley and extends scholarly attention to their travel journals, before discussing Frankenstein. Using the couple’s shared journal as a way of marking their convergence and redefinition of themselves from a singular identity to a shared pluralism, the journal’s entries witness a shared understanding – a sympathetic concord – between the couple. This close examination of the collaborative process indicates a willingness to assimilate and accommodate the other’s sentiments and formal constructs. While the narratives of these entries show the completion of each other’s thoughts and a reliance upon readerly circulation, the entries’ form also gestures to their defined plural identity through a vocal blending. With its sustained focus on the sympathetic communities developed by the couple and increased literary production as a result of this lived communal experience, I suggest that the Shelley collaboration ultimately shapes the narrative form of Frankenstein. The novel’s layered narrative of sympathetic texts makes possible a view of the collaborative compilation of the novel as a means of social reform: a view of society that relies upon the affective bonds of sympathy with a community of people, whether imaginative or genuine.
The Introduction examines the process of “sympathetic collaboration” – drawing from manuscript marginalia, notes, journal/diary entries, and correspondence – and the influences of that process on poetry, drama, and fiction. Guided by the current trend of literary studies around sympathy, emotion, and affect, it demonstrates the long reach that eighteenth-century moral philosophy has on later literature and artistic thought by investigating the writing and creative processes to understand the ways in which communal relationships are inscribed within the literary product. Collaboration is necessarily rooted in the ideals of Victorian liberalism: It is derived from a representation of sympathetic identification and emphasizes human sociability. In a broader sense, this book provides a fresh understanding of literary collaboration necessarily informed by the mechanics of the writing process and illustrated in the formal elements of literature, as well as textual or marginal traces within the manuscripts. Nineteenth-century artistic creation is, I propose, rooted in sympathetic identification. This philosophical approach to life (seen in the lived attempts at community for each of my case studies) has larger implications for literary history: I suggest that these sympathetic communities are mutually implicated in formal experimentation and innovation.
Chapter 6 focuses on the introduction of empathy into the English language in 1909, and the blurring of the Victorian notion of sympathy as a social process and Vernon Lee’s conception of empathy as an aesthetic experience. As such, I read Lee as a figure of Modernism, finding within her work traces of a modernist aesthetic. It includes case studies of Lee’s partnership with poet A. Mary F. Robinson and Scottish artist Clementina “Kit” Anstruther-Thomson. Rather than a wholly sympathetic collaboration, the final chapter traces a model that is not necessarily reliant upon individuals coming together in concord, but is founded on the privatization of the aesthetic experience and the discord that arises due to the individualist qualities advanced by the aesthetic imperative.
Chapter 3 analyzes Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s illustrations alongside a formal analysis of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market (1862) to draw further attention to the creative and communal processes associated with intertextual collaborative production. Reading this collaboration through the lens of sympathetic collaboration allows for an understanding of fellow-feeling dependent on the articulation of both individual and communal viewpoints – acknowledging difference – and the means of self-assimilation to form community. Reading Goblin Market as a collaborative lyric establishes how the poem constructs a reproduction of the Rossetti collaboration and underscores the interrelationships between word and image and community development. Placing the poem alongside the reformative work Christina Rossetti completed at Highgate Penitentiary, this chapter provides a direct contextual link to sympathetic concord and its inflection of moral reform. Reading the Rossettis’ contemporaneous literary productions as sympathetic collaborations that inform one another reveals, more broadly, the interlacings of shared experiences and literary and artistic productions within the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
In a narrative of self, what is the place of people, of others, of community? Quite plainly, this question poses the paradox of the lyric poet. Interlinking the social implications of poetry with theoretical models of eighteenth-century sympathy, primarily Adam Smiths sympathetic concord, lays the foundation for the latter half of the chapter: understanding “sympathetic collaboration” and its connections to Victorian liberalism, which I define as a communal fraternity of sympathetic experience that uses art as a means of expression and experimentation.
Chapter 4 considers the late nineteenth-century aesthetic press as an embodiment of the collaborative process. Drawing from manuscript culture and William Morris’s lectures, this chapter illuminates two integral processes: individuals coming together to form a liberal community and the mechanization of the Kelmscott Press as a joining of art and writing. By positioning the Press within a larger trajectory of Victorian liberal sentiment, this chapter foregrounds that fraternal communitarian conceptions of liberalism can be understood as the same as Morris’s practical socialism. During the 1880s, liberalism and socialism were closely related. Further, by emphasizing Morris’s belief that the production of art brings relief from the vulgarization of society, this chapter asserts that such reform occurs in the communal endeavor of the press as a business partnership, witnessed in the collaborative productions of Edward Burne-Jones and Robert Catterson-Smith, and William Morris and Charles Gere. Morris’s ideal book, thus, serves as an exemplar of lived sociality in the embodiment of the Kelmscott Press: a site that combines work with social pleasure.
Chapter 5 explores the lived experience of communal relations and the importance of joining art to literature by examining the poetry and verse dramas of Michael Field. This chapter looks specifically at the ways in which the couple reclassify and revitalize female tragic history by experimenting with the boundaries of literary form. As a case study that aligns with the late Victorian transition into Modernism, this chapter locates a shift in conceptions of liberal community development as Michael Field complicate critical dichotomies between Victorian and Decadent; Decadent and Modern. In so doing, I suggest that Michael Field carries traces of the liberal sympathetic experience witnessed in their life-writing into their amalgamation of specifically decadent characteristics in their poetry and verse drama. The shift toward Decadence that Michael Field marks in this project allows for a seamless move into Modernism.
Sympathy, fellow-feeling, enables nineteenth-century collaboration. Throughout Collaborative Writing in the Long Nineteenth Century, my conception of sympathetic collaboration relies not only on the “joint creation,” but also on the associations and networks that make up the artistic process in order to trace the coming together of individuals both interpersonally and intertextually. Sympathetic collaboration is an exploratory, liberal, and necessarily social interaction and, in the nineteenth century, aesthetic, moral, and social judgments are interrelated. Sympathetic collaboration reconsiders the collective nature of nineteenth-century literary production and its reliance upon lived experience and communal relations as a means of constructing shared expression through formal experimentation. Demonstrating the extent to which Smithean sympathy influenced the Victorian establishment of liberal community, my model of collaboration illuminates an innovative argument about the nineteenth century: namely, that sympathetic communities are implicated in formal experimentation.
Bringing the collaborative process to life through an array of examples, Heather Witcher shows that sympathetic co-creation is far more than the mere act of writing together. While foregrounding the material aspects of collaboration – hands uniting on the page, blank space left for fellow contributors, the writing and exchanging of drafts – this study also illuminates its social aspects and its reliance on Victorian liberalism: dialogue, the circulation of correspondence, the lived experience of collaboration, and, on a less material plane, transhistorical collaborations with figures of the past. Witcher takes a broad approach to these partnerships and, in doing so, challenges traditional expectations surrounding the nature of authorship itself, not least its typical classification as a solitary activity. Within this new framework, collaboration enables the titles of 'coauthor,' 'influencer,' 'editor,' 'critic,' and 'inspiration' to coexist. This book celebrates the plurality of collaboration and underscores the truly social nature of nineteenth-century writing.
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