Is Compassion an Oceanic Feeling?

In: Emotions: History, Culture, Society
Steve Mentz St John’s University NYC USA

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The emotional connections that humans feel with other humans seem quite distinct from the ‘oceanic feeling’ that confronts us when solitary mortals face the great waters. Uniting these discourses requires drawing together the myriad resources of sea poetry, canonical novels, and multiple theoretical traditions from Freudian psychoanalysis to the ‘blue’ (or oceanic) humanities and contemporary environmental studies. Shifting from narrowly human to post-human ways of understanding our human and nonhuman surroundings enables the novels of Austen and Cervantes to speak to the theoretical perspectives of Luce Irigaray, Sigmund Freud and John Dewey, as well as contemporary figures such as Allan Sekula, Karin Animoto Ingersoll and Christopher Connery. Principles of connection and ‘experience’ unearth new ways of imagining the relationships among humans and between humans and the nonhuman environment that seem particularly valuable in our own moment of ecological crisis and catastrophe.

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