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Empathy and narcissism in the work of Molière

Empathy and narcissism in the work of Molière

Abstract

The aim of this thesis is to explore the comic art of Molière through the lens of empathy and narcissism, and reciprocally, to show that Molière nourishes Western thought about these phenomena, which can be viewed as opposite ends of a continuum. Every personality has some of each, but the unbalanced egoist has excessive self-love and cannot put himself in another's place. The narcissist is omnipresent in Molière's theatre, but has been heretofore unidentified as such in criticism. This work attempts to fill this gap, and accordingly, my corpus encompasses his 33 extant plays. Furthermore, these psychological concepts are inherently theatrical, especially with respect to whether or not spectators recognize themselves in characters on stage. There is a dialectic relation between reconnaissance and empathy or antipathy, and, therefore, laughter. Hence, empathy and narcissism provide a way of looking at characters on stage and at the interaction between the dramatic action and the audience. To explore the former, I investigate endogenous words Molière uses to convey empathy and narcissism; how he portrays empathizers and narcissists visually through their adherence to and breaking of social codes; and how cognition influences their ability to change. For the latter, I demonstrate how early modern querelles surrounding Molière's plays involve these notions; and how his metatheatrical discourses reveal that Molière transports his spectators 'hors de soi': a state that mirrors romantic love and provides pleasure. Taken in this framework, I argue that Molière's work can be seen as anti-narcissistic; if his spectators knew themselves in the mirror he held up, laughing was a means of precluding blind empathy. Thus, employing tools from modern psychology and neuroscience and notions from the seventeenth century, this thesis evaluates how Molière's characters provide us, today, with a means for better understanding the place of narcissism in our occidental world.

Country
United Kingdom
Keywords

Literatures of Romance languages, French, Languages (Medieval and Modern) and non-English literature, Dramatic arts

65 references, page 1 of 7

Anonymous, Lettre sur la comédie de l'Imposteur [1667], in Œuvres complètes [Molière], ed. by Georges Forestier and Claude Bourqui, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 2010), II, pp. 1170-99

Archevêque de Paris, Ordonnance [1664], in Œuvres complètes [Molière], ed. by Georges Forestier and Claude Bourqui, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 2010), II, pp. 1168-9

Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics [350 BCE], trans. by David Ross, rev. by J.L. Ackrill and J.O. Urmson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)

, Poetics [335 BCE], trans. by Malcolm Heath (London: Penguin Books, 1996)

Boileau, Nicolas, L'Art poétique [1674], ed. by Jean-Pierre Collinet (Paris: Gallimard, 1985)

Boursault, Edme, Le Portrait du peintre [1663], in Œuvres complètes [Molière], ed. by Georges Couton, 2 vols (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), I, pp. 1050-67

Burton, Robert, The Anatomy of Melancholy [1621] (London: J. & E. Hodson, 1804)

Conti, Armand de Bourbon, Prince de, Traité de la comédie et des spectacles [1666], ed. by Karl Vollmöller (Heilbronn: Verlag von Gebr. Henninger, 1881)

Corneille, Pierre, La Place Royale [1634], ed. by Jean Serroy (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 2006)

, Le Menteur [1644], ed. by Maurice Rat, Théâtre choisi de Corneille (Paris: Garnier, 1961)

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    popularity
    This indicator reflects the "current" impact/attention (the "hype") of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network.
    Average
    influence
    This indicator reflects the overall/total impact of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network (diachronically).
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    This indicator reflects the initial momentum of an article directly after its publication, based on the underlying citation network.
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citations
This is an alternative to the "Influence" indicator, which also reflects the overall/total impact of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network (diachronically).
BIP!Citations provided by BIP!
popularity
This indicator reflects the "current" impact/attention (the "hype") of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network.
BIP!Popularity provided by BIP!
influence
This indicator reflects the overall/total impact of an article in the research community at large, based on the underlying citation network (diachronically).
BIP!Influence provided by BIP!
impulse
This indicator reflects the initial momentum of an article directly after its publication, based on the underlying citation network.
BIP!Impulse provided by BIP!
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