Imagined Connections: The Space of Empathy in the Undergraduate Classroom

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast MLA Conference (NeMLA)
contact email: 

NeMLA 2018 Roundtable: Imagined Connections: The Space of Empathy in the Undergraduate Classroom

This panel seeks to question the role of empathy in the literature and/or writing classroom. Some significant attention has been paid in recent literary scholarship to the role of empathy as part of the affective turn in scholarship (for example, Suzanne Keen’s important Empathy and the Novel). In addition, news articles about the relationship between reading and empathy periodically pop across our screens with headlines like “Literary fiction readers understand others’ emotions better, study finds” or “Reading novels boost your empathy.” This panel proposes to consider questions about the relationship between reading and empathy as embodied in the space of the undergraduate classroom. Some questions that the panel hopes to answer include: To what extent does thinking about a text’s “relatability” help or hinder classroom discussions? What are the strengths or weaknesses of considering a text through students’ emotional connections to it? To what extent does using empathy to approach a text foreclose a careful consideration of difference? Ultimately, the panel will attempt to think about ways to get beyond a simplistic understanding of “relatability” as the primary lens through which students understand or evaluate a text without foreclosing or dismissing students’ affective responses to the text.

Please submit short (300-400 word) abstracts online at: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/cfp by September 30, 2017.

For more information, or with questions, please contact Claudia Stumpf at cstumpf@bentley.edu.

NeMLA will be held April 12-15, 2018 in Pittsburgh.