Chapter

The Invention of Sympathy

in Loving Yusuf

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780226035864
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226035888 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226035888.003.0005
The Invention of Sympathy

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Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that pain is the best incentive to memory, and memory (of pain) to morality. An extraordinary scene in Thomas Mann's novel, Joseph and His Brothers, is the scene of Yusuf and Mut. In the middle of the turbulence caused by Mut's desperate love for Yusuf, the closed circle of the harrowing house of Genesis is broken. The text proves Elaine Scarry's analysis right: pain cannot be shared. Or, more precisely, Mann specifies pain cannot be shared in words. This difficulty brings to the heart of art's social function and its limitations. Because it is such an extraordinary scene, the author felt that Mann could not have invented it out of the blue, so he started to search, and the closest he came to a possible antecedent was in the Qur'an. This chapter discusses sympathy, solidarity, as the basis of the formation of sociocultural groups. The scene of Yusuf and Mut is a scene of pain and bloodshed, a parody of civil war, a drama of women. Against the backdrop of solidarity as a social problem of the time, the scene has the kind of resonance that preoccupies.

Keywords: sympathy; solidarity; pain; Friedrich Nietzsche; memory; Qur'an; Thomas Mann; Elaine Scarry; Joseph and His Brothers; sociocultural groups

Chapter.  8166 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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