(CFP: PAMLA 2018) Performing Empathy

deadline for submissions: 
May 30, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Toshiaki Komura / Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association
contact email: 

Session Title – Performing Empathy:  When Literary Texts Are Acts of Kindness

This session seeks papers on the empathic potentials of literature, broadly defined.  The subtext here is the social division in the present-day America, where sympathy fatigue—a feeling of resentment arising from the belief that one has been asked to extend one’s sympathy to outgroups, such as women, minorities, immigrants, and the poor, beyond what one feels is reasonable—is often cited as one reason for the intransigence.  The larger question we will ask ourselves is the following:  how can literature act as a vehicle of empathic connection and reinforce people’s capacity for compassion toward the marginalized other? 

A non-exhaustive list of related questions may include:  How do specific literary works perform empathy or reinvigorate our compassion?  How does literature put on the stage or page our everyday acts of kindness?  What kind of empathy can be learned or generated in the classroom?  This session aims to reflect on these questions through close reading, literary theory and historicism, pedagogy, and performance theories.  Papers may explore close analyses of literary texts, theoretical discussions or classroom stories of literature and empathy, interdisciplinary exploration of sympathetic literature, among other possibilities.  

Areas of inquiry encompass, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Literature and empathy
  • Performance theories
  • Ethics of representation
  • Psychological approaches
  • Pedagogy – teaching literature
  • Interdisciplinary (e.g. literature, politics, psychology, cultural studies, etc.)
  • Comparison across time periods or cultures

This session is part of the discussion of the theme for the 116th Annual PAMLA Conference:  "Acting, Roles, Stages."

The 2018 PAMLA Conference will be held at Western Washington University, in idyllic Bellingham, Washington, from Friday, November 9 to Sunday, November 11.  (Information about special PAMLA rates at local Bellingham hotels will be up on the conference website soon.)

Paper proposals must be made via our online system found here:


The deadline for making paper proposals via our online system is May 30.