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Tracing The Term "Generosity"

ajohnston's picture

While reading Generosity and throughout class discussions I’ve often wondered why Powers chose to focus on “generosity” – so much so that it appears as a nickname for such Thassa’s prominent character and the title for his book. To me, the term “generosity” initially calls to mind a virtuous disposition, an extension of the self – a concept that fits Thassa exceptionally well but one that I struggle to apply to the plot or suggested messages of the story. Is Power’s connecting gestures of giving and acting with conscientiousness toward others, “sharing the wealth” in a sense, to the science of evolution and survival? To gain a better sense of just what “generosity” had to do with the story, I looked up its definition in the dictionary and found it has many, not just the one that first came to my mind. The first definition of generosity is aristocratic birth or lineage; nobility, the second is the behavior associated with good breeding, willingness, responsiveness, and the third is nobility of spirit…magnanimity, fair-mindedness. These new angles on “generosity” shed light on its quality of connectedness – through the biology of lineage and the benevolence of respect for others. On Tuesday we discussed whether or not it was productive to focus on individuals, reflecting on Kurton’s dislike of fiction’s focus on the singular rather than the collective. I wonder how the broader concept of “generosity” complicates this question? 

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