Walt Whitman, Jane Bennett, and the paradox of antagonistic sympathy

Journal article


Coles, Romand. (2016) Walt Whitman, Jane Bennett, and the paradox of antagonistic sympathy. Political Research Quarterly. 69(3), pp. 621 - 625. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912916656458
AuthorsColes, Romand
Abstract

This essay critically engages ontological, rhetorical, ethical, and political themes pertinent to the concept of “sympathy” as it appears in the poetry and prose of Walt Whitman and Jane Bennett’s writing on him. I suggest that antagonism is immanent in the “ecology of sympathies” that Bennett theorizes, and that this partly explains why one frequently finds antagonistic articulations deeply intertwined with Whitman’s most sympathetic expressions. I propose that we use the paradoxical—even oxymoronic sounding—trope antagonistic sympathy to evoke this immanent relationship between affiliative and antagonistic flows, energies, and conditions for ethical and political cultivation. The concept of antagonistic sympathy helps us better understand Whitman, the ethical and political qualities, pulls, and implications of sympathy, and it enables us to theorize entanglements of sympathy and antagonism in ways that avoid the worst tendencies of each when isolated from the other. Antagonistic sympathy, I argue, is indispensable for radical democratic and ecological transformation in a time of rapidly intensifying planetary ecological catastrophe.

Keywordssympathy; antagonism; democracy; ecology; Whitman; Bennett
Year2016
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Journal citation69 (3), pp. 621 - 625
PublisherSAGE Publications Inc.
ISSN1065-9129
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912916656458
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84979997583
Page range621 - 625
Research GroupInstitute for Social Justice
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Controlled
Place of publicationUnited States of America
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