113th Annual Conference - Portland, Oregon
Friday, November 6 - Sunday, November 8, 2015

Ethics and Affect I: Empathy

Session Chair: 
Theresa Crater, Metropolitan State University of Denver
Session 10: Sunday 8:30-10:00am
Studio Suite (PH-ET)


  1. Liz Janssen, University of Washington
    This paper examines existing research into women’s book clubs and the uses of empathy as a privileged term of literary value. It surveys the implications of empathetic reader-responses for lived cross-cultural engagements, and argues that empathy as a value term stakes out interpretive (community) territory independent from gendered academic discourses.
  2. Matthew Borushko, Stonehill College
    Exploring the tension between the rhetoric and practice of "learning outcomes" on the one hand and, on the other, the complex relationship between literature (its reading and its teaching) and empathy, this paper turns, ultimately, to the Romanticsm of Wordsworth, Blake, and Shelley for models of reading, affect, and -- as a precursor to the modern term "empathy" -- sympathy that might illumine our approach to teaching literature.
  3. Christopher Weinberger, San Francisco State University
    Ethical criticism of the novel tends to focus on empathy and therefore to privilege novel mimesis.  A new wave of contemporary metafiction, however, dispels mimetic illusions and deliberately refuses to let us cultivate empathetic imaginations. Yet it insists nevertheless on making ethics primary to our experience by emphasizing how literalness, presence, and metonymy can position readers ethically much more effectively than imaginative projection.   
Session Cancelled: