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ERIC Number: EJ940538
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Sep
Pages: 18
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 74
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0994
Empathy and the Critic
Jurecic, Ann
College English, v74 n1 p10-27 Sep 2011
"Empathy" is a much-discussed term in the humanities these days. While some critics value it and argue that literature desirably promotes it, other critics worry that appeals to this emotion will neglect important matters of social context. In the literature classroom, the best approach is to take time to consider how texts complicate the impulse to empathize. In this essay, the author discusses the two major camps in the empathy debate in turn. In the first section, she surveys arguments for teaching empathy through literature; in the second section, she reviews the work of several affect theorists who are deeply suspicious about the politics of empathy. Each section concludes with a discussion of how the positions under review could more fully address the complexities of social and readerly empathy. The author argues that educators need to release their hold on the supposition that reading enriches empathic concern because, in fact, there is little clear evidence that reading changes behavior beyond the private encounter with the book. At the same time, she contends that skeptical critics must question their own conviction that empathic responses to literature are necessarily simplistic and naive. She then discusses how literary considerations of empathy reveal the limitations of both stances. (Contains 5 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A