Primal sympathy

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Template:Quotebox William Wordsworth's notion of primal sympathy, from his Ode: Intimations of Immortality (excerpted at right), has been the subject of numerous critical interpretationsTemplate:Whom.

The prevailing view of the "primal sympathy" is that Wordsworth was referring to a reservoir of human emotions and experience that is common to all humans qua humans and that it is a core register of fundamental passions that artists may tap into and to which arguably all great works of art appeal. So it has been said of Beethoven's Fifth, for example, that there is a piece of music which stirs the principal emotions of people everywhere, regardless of their personal backgrounds, philosophy, religion, nationality or culture.

The "primal sympathy" unites all of humanity in that every person has the capacity to feel. In this sense, one might say it is really a kind of primal empathy rather than sympathy, for through art one can take that which is external and internalize it and actually feel something as a result. Great art moves its audience; it creates strong feelings—and such feelings can be shared: across borders, across genders, across even the span of centuries of time.

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