Call for Chapter Proposals for Edited Volume: Constructing the Other: Empathy and the Ethics of Imagining Difference in Literature
A central question engaging literary scholars today is can the practice of reading literatures make humans empathetic, especially towards those who do not share similar socio-cultural or experiential backgrounds? Postcolonial theorists largely reject this possibility by finding empathy to be a bad criterion for supporting ethical cross-border-identification in literature. Some such as Marcus Wood and Fredric Jameson dismiss empathy as an ideology that promotes colonial subject imposition. Others such as Steven Aschheim and Paul Bloom maintain that as an emotion, empathy is more likely to promote ego-centrism and self-directed behaviors. The disdain that most postcolonial theorists have for empathy is nonetheless vigorously contradicted in practice by creative writers who strategically employ empathy in their writing in reaching out to audiences both near and far (Suzanne Keen’s emphasis). Virginia Woolf, for instance, recommends that novelists should devote themselves to “character-reading,” the everyday act of observing people, to portray a complex interior to their characters and to enhance relatability for readers. Amitav Ghosh, in novels such as The Glass Palace and The Hungry Tide, utilizes linguistic strategies and nonverbal cues as narrative vehicles to demonstrate how the interiority of others (including humans and non-humans) can be ethically and responsibly imagined. Edwidge Danticat uses first-person narrative and child characters in nuanced ways to set off layers of border crossing between the narrator, writer, and reader. These writers thus create what the scholar Shameem Black calls “border crossing fictions;” fictions that not only confront the ethical challenges of writing difference but also offer non-coercive alternatives to representational violence.
This volume explores how creative writers, scholars, teachers and artists recruit empathy in imaginative ways to ethically engage otherness and border-crossing. Contributors are invited to examine the intersections of empathy and literature/art in diverse and interdisciplinary ways. Some possible focuses may include; how artists and creative writers deploy narrative strategies to ethically imagine otherness and border-crossing? How can border-crossing empathy allow us to dismantle colonial, hegemonic, and other forms of representational violence? How can narrative empathy allow us to move beyond anthropocentric limitations in imagining non-human planetary consciousness? How can writers and artists encounter their own prejudices and blindspots in crafting ethical and empathetic border-crossing strategies? How can the teaching of empathy enrich student encounters with narratives of difference? How can empathy produce new forms of ethicality and inter-subjective alliance in war-torn and conflicted regions? How can narrative empathy complicate our understanding of the enemy in narratives of war? Are there particular literary tools and strategies that can be consistently identified across different texts as a vehicle for empathy? And finally, how do writers and scholars engage empathy as a criterion for evaluating literature?
Please submit a CV and a 300-word abstract by October 31, 2022. Full Drafts of approx. 7000 words will be due in May 2023. We have received positive interest for publication from Brill for their Studies in Comparative Literature book series. Abstracts and queries should be directed to the primary email id firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested participants may also send queries to the co-editors at their individual email ids: Dr. Arnab Dutta Roy (email@example.com) and Dr. Shailen Mishra (firstname.lastname@example.org).