On Sympathetic Grounds: Race, Gender, and Affective Geographies in Nineteenth-Century North America

ISBN : 9780190087623

Naomi Greyser
274 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Feb 2020
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With its filigreed, formidable representations of tears and suffering, sentimentalism has remained a divisive genre and category of analysis. On Sympathetic Grounds offers a new interpretation of the sentimental by mapping its grounds in North America. During sweeping transformations of territory, land stewardship, personhood, and citizenship in the nineteenth century, sentimentalists evoked sympathy to express a desire for a place that was both territorial and emotional-what Naomi Greyser calls an "affective geography." Greyser traces the intricacies attending Americans' sentimental sense that bodies could merge and mutually occupy the same space at the same time. Affective geographies complicate normative, linear assumptions about intimacy and distance, and consequently compel a reconsideration of geopolitics, geophysics and the distribution of resources and care.

Mapping feelings in and also about space, On Sympathetic Grounds focuses on the experiences and perspectives of those whose bodies, labor and sovereignty have been occupied to ground others' lives and world-making projects. Bringing literary and rhetorical studies together with critical race and gender theory, cultural geography, American studies, affect studies and the new materialism, this book lays out sentimentalism's usefulness to settler colonialism and the maintenance of racialized labor. The book also carefully charts sentimentalism's value as a means of resisting geographic displacement and both physical and metaphysical dispossession.

Philosophers and rhetoricians regard grounds as necessary conditions for argumentation; Greyser treats grounds as also geopolitical, geoaffective, and geophysical. Sympathy has enriched conditions for living at the same time that it has mercilessly enlisted some bodies and lives as the grounds for others' wellbeing. Ultimately, On Sympathetic Grounds uncovers a moving, non-linear cartography of sympathy's vital place in shaping North America.



Chapter 1: A Paper Trail of Tears: Sentimental Sovereignty, Indian Removal and Staking Claims on North America

Chapter 2: The Ethical Bind of Sentimentalism:Rhetorical Intimacy in the Public Sphere and the Many Narratives of Sojourner Truth

Chapter 3: Between Intimacy and Distance, a Neutral Territory: Sentimentalism, Writer's Block and Untouchable Masculinity in The Scarlet Letter

Chapter 4: Plotting Maidens and Traitors: Sympathy, Displacement and Survivance in the New Southwest

Chapter 5: Do I Not All Thy Sorrows Heed, And Bear Thee on My Heart? Harriet E. Wilson and the Unsympathetic Materialism of White Northern Domesticity


About the author: 

Naomi Greyser is Associate Professor of Rhetoric, English and Gender Studies at the University of Iowa, where she is also executive director of POROI, Iowa's Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry.

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