Detalle Publicación

The Uses of Empathy in Literary Theory and Hermeneutics: A Systems-Theoretical Approach

ISSN: 1810-7478
Volumen: 42
Número: 2
Páginas: 27 - 43
Fecha de publicación: 2016
This paper discusses, from a system-theoretical perspective, the role of empathy and emotional involvement in literary studies. In general, empathy appears on different levels: as an element in the content of fiction, as a response by the average reader, and as an analytical tool for literary scholars. As for the latter, the object of empathy is often an authorial figure who is meant to warrant the "appropriate" emotional response. In this frame, criticism and authorship may be said to play correlative roles, and consequently affective criticism describes itself as enhancing the empathic response to literature. However, such criticism may naturally have certain biases with regard to texts and topics of greatest interest, and a focus on particular empathetic effects of texts might lose sight of how empathy works more generally in the system of literary communication: how it arouses interest for example, and discriminates between high and low literature. Thus I want to argue that criticism can detach itself from the role of the emotions in order to question their cognitive or practical value. I also want to suggest that the study of literature as a system of communication, by taking into account the systemic role of empathy and the emotions, could achieve a deeper understanding of text processing activities, in species-typical ways and also in conventional frameworks, and a clearer grasp of both individual and social levels