CFP: Empathy and Nation (3/25/07; MLA '07)

full name / name of organization: 
Mary-Catherine Harrison
contact email:

CFP: Empathy and Nation (3/25/07; MLA 2007) MLA 2007, Chicago, IL

This panel will explore the relationship between empathy, reading, and
national identity.

Over the past twenty years, empathy has emerged as a central category
in the analysis of intersubjective relationships, or relationships
between self and other. Empathy—-the ability to imagine oneself in
another’s place and so understand or “share” her cognitive, affective,
and volitional states—-is critical, research has shown, to our ability
to understand and interact with other people. Theorizing empathy is an
interdisciplinary effort, with important research emerging in cognitive
science, social, developmental, and clinical psychology, philosophy of
mind, philosophy of social science, animal ethology, and anthropology.
While a small number of philosophers, psychologists, and literary
critics have turned their attention to the mechanics and ramifications
of empathy with art and with literary characters, the critical
potential of this social, psychological, and aesthetic category is
still unrealized. Starting from Benedict Anderson’s seminal account
of nations as imagined communities and nationality as a cultural
artifact, this panel proposes to examine how authors and texts might
employ empathy in the service of creating or challenging ideas of
citizenship. By connecting the well-established study of nationalism
and literature with the emerging category of empathy, this panel hopes
to bring together theories of reading and identity construction in
combinations that will provoke further inquiry.

We will consider the relationship between empathy and the construction
of national identity across a range of time periods, cultural contexts,
and/or genres.

Questions papers might address include:

-How do authors “instruct” readers in practices of empathetic reading?
-How does empathetic reading work to construct ideas of national identity?
-How does empathy help readers understand concepts of “self” and
“other” in a national or international context?
-How do theories of empathy transform our understanding of the creation
and maintenance of national literature(s)?

Papers addressing any time period and/or genre are welcome.

Please submit 1 page abstracts with a brief C.V. by email to
Mary-Catherine Harrison ( by March 25th, 2007.

Panelists must be or become MLA members by April 7, 2007.

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Received on Tue Mar 13 2007 - 21:53:38 EST

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