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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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Contesting Empathy

Contesting Empathy

(p.144) (p.145) 6 Contesting Empathy
Empathy and the Novel

Suzanne Keen

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the evidence for a relationship between narrative empathy and the prosocial motivation of actual novel readers does not support the grand claims often made on behalf of empathy. It suggests that if narrative empathy is to be understood, all genres of fiction and all kinds of readers should be taken into consideration. It explains that it will not suffice to rely on the assertions of authors, on introspection, or on personal conviction to prove that reading certain canonical works of fiction inevitably yields the cultural and civic good of altruism and engaged world citizenship.

Keywords:   narrative empathy, prosocial motivation, novel readers, fiction, altruism, world citizenship

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