116th Annual Conference - Bellingham, Washington
Friday, November 9 - Sunday, November 11, 2018

Performing Empathy: When Literary Texts Are Acts of Kindness

Session Chair: 
Toshiaki Komura, Kobe College
Session 5: Saturday 1:25 pm – 2:55 pm
Miller Hall 105


  1. Ellwood Wiggins, "University of Washington, Seattle"
    This paper claims that François Fenelon’s popular 1699 novel, The Adventures of Telemachus, determined in many ways the discourse history of sympathy in the 18th-century. It reveals how Fenelon’s novel prefigures the distinction between feeling-with and feeling-for (or, in modern parlance empathy and compassion).
  2. Kasey Waite, SUNY Albany
    Famously writing to white northern women in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs does not merely initiate a call to action, but rather provides her readers with a model of the type of abolitionist action that does not rest on sympathetic identification with the slave's experience which subsumes the place of the Other, but rather on Aristotle's Kindness, which allows northern white women to act without voyeuristically identifying with the female slave's experience.
  3. Mineo Takamura, Kwansei Gakuin University
    This paper examines the recent popularity of dystopian literature and films as a sign of people’s collective desire to fictionally identify their objects of fear and compassion. Consuming tales of struggles, contemporary readers/viewers effectively find outlets of their pent-up passion and thus make their feelings more manageable. How does such a closed circuit of codependency between sympathy and fiction influence their emotional life in the real world?
  4. Marianne Noble, American University
    In opposition to the culture of sympathy but in defense of true sympathy, Emily Dickinson creates an empathic form that destabilizes both the object it describes and the reader. These acts of opening affirm the fullness of the reader and the poetic object. That is her sympathy.
Session Cancelled: