Narrative Empathy for the Other in American Literature, 1845-1945 Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Horn, Patrick E.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Empathy is a relatively new word in the English language, dating back to the early twentieth century as a translation of the German term Einfühlung (in-feeling or feeling into a work of art or another being). Yet the interpersonal relations that empathy encompasses are as old as human history, and literary depictions of empathy are as old as human narratives. Narrative empathy is a central trope of American literature because in a nation of immigrants and enslaved subjects who became fully recognized citizens--not to mention the native peoples who had always lived here--imaginative identification with unfamiliar Others became a constant necessity. Narrative empathy encompasses both diegetic empathy, or empathic relations between narrators and characters (or between multiple characters), and readerly empathy, or empathic relations between readers and narrators or characters within the text. Readerly empathy results from a complicated interplay between formal qualities, personal factors, and authorial information that characterizes the narrative's creation and transmission. Considering literary narratives as rhetorical situations reveals that narratives are conceived and received as interactions between authors, texts, and readers. Narrative judgments about how characters think, feel, and behave within the context of their particular storyworlds become more influential than any categorical identifications that we forge--either with or against characters--based on personal similarities or differences. Whereas the Other is perceived through a lens of radical and/or categorical alterity, empathy works against the logic of Otherness as an imaginative identification with an/other.
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  • In Copyright
  • Fisher, Rebecka R.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013

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