Summer Seminar 2017, August 21-23
‘What the Humanities Contribute to the University’

What can we learn from the high points of European literature about the value and meaning of life?

Suzanne Keen (Washington and Lee University)



Literary empathy studies draws on research and theorizing in three distinct areas of psychology (cognitive, developmental, and social psychology), on philosophical work in ethics (moral philosophy), and on recent developments in neuroscience. This lecture discusses the debates and challenges of the interdisciplinary research context for literary theories of narrative empathy, including readers’ empathy, authors’ strategic empathizing, and the relationship of empathy for textual creations to prosocial action in the real world.

Brief bio

Suzanne Keen writes about narrative empathy and the impact of immersion reading. Her work combines expertise in the novel and narrative theory with interests in neuroscience, developmental and social psychology, and emotion science.  Her books include Thomas Hardy’s Brains, Empathy and the Novel, Romances of the Archive in Contemporary British Fiction, Victorian Renovations of the Novel, and a volume of poetry. Co-editor of Contemporary Women’s Writing, she has guest edited special issues of Poetics Today and Style. She serves as Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English and Dean of the College at Washington and Lee University.

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