INKSHED XXIII May 5, 2006

Karen K. -- Writing Consciousness: Re-examining the intersubjective relationship among author, text, and reader

You make good use of the epistolary novel as central example, but I question whether or why it exerted such an influence on empathy.

Consider: no two people react in the same way. At a methodological level, this requires a near infinite gradient of "same ways". Then indeed, no two will ever react the same way.

If literature is never emotionally neutral, neither are conference presentations, nor for that matter, is any a communication act.

It's not really that we share the perceptions with the characters, it's that we share them with the person telling us about the characters. -- Russ

I admire the amount of work that lies behind this paper but I have several fundamental problems with the paper's basic assumption. One basic assumption is that the literature is naturally better than non-literature, that it is more affective, more narrative, therefore morally better for readers and writers than non-literature This just makes no sense to me. Response It is possible to interpret the argument in this way, yes. But is there a political motive (i.e. defending the arts?).

I'm wondering about how these very interesting notions about the interactions among brain activity, affect, and imagery can come into play when teaching the reading/writing of genres that don't explicitly engage affect or "imagination" in the way literary works do. -- Amanda

Do you mean? The autobiographical self, as narrative, constitutes or develops into one's sense of self-identity

Re: the idea of image(s) being necessary for thought, as a way of projecting oneself into the character of a novel; does this apply to all types of writing or just literature? Resumes perhaps?

I wonder how it is possible to feel compassion for someone who is different than oneself? Does the "similar" experience in the end devolve to sharing the sense that both are human beings? Or, is it possible (as Hunt seems to be saying) that it is possible to develop appreciation for difference as well as similarity? Perhaps it depends on how great the perception of difference is.

The entire notion of empathetic identification is dangerous as a classroom activity. Asking students to identify with characters and circumstances can place them in an untenable circumstance vis-à-vis their own lines. Examples include asking women to read phalocentric novels or gay men to read canonical literature where, if they identify with the main hero they are reading against their own sexuality, but if they identify with the heroine they are reading against their own masculinity.

It seems to me that the relationship between human consciousness and the acts of reading and writing is critical to an understanding if those acts, and to our ability to effectively teach these two activities. I'm curious of course as a teacher of writing how our growing understanding of how the brain functions might impact our understanding of how humans go about the act of writing.

I wonder how/if the work on empathy -- identity links to gender studies. Are people who are socialized to be more empathetic better readers? Does gender identification interfere with empathy/identification in reading? Finally, I couldn't help thinking about "A Clockwork Orange" as I listened to the paper.

Writing can serve as a vehicle to remove one from embodies response to an event (real or vicarious), a vehicle to protect one from the omnipresence of embodies response so that one might "get on with life".

So -- what happens when readers form images which -- by their nature, use unique -- and Hollywood pre-empts them? So many of our young readers have images interrupted -- Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Whale Rider, Lassie, Black Beauty. Does this, in fact, strengthen or change the development of empathy?