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Empathy and the Novel$
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Suzanne Keen

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195175769

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195175769.001.0001

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The Literary Career of Empathy

The Literary Career of Empathy

Chapter:
(p.37) 2 The Literary Career of Empathy
Source:
Empathy and the Novel
Author(s):

Suzanne Keen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195175769.003.0002

This chapter examines the history of the use of empathy in novels. It suggests that the reinvention of the novel as a form during the Victorian period might have done something positive in the world by swaying readers' minds rather than activating their passions. The key term in the transformation of novel reading from a morally suspect waste of time to an activity cultivating the role-taking imagination, empathy, appeared in English as a translation of Einfühlung in the early 20th century. This chapter argues that the reputation of narrative empathy is tainted by association with popular technologies for sharing feelings and this may explain why advocates of the ethical benefits of novel reading nearly always insist that great literature best stimulates literary empathy.

Keywords:   empathy, novel, Victorian period, role-taking imagination, Einfühlung, narrative empathy

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