Internal Research WiP: Dr Amna Whiston
PLEASE NOTE THIS ONLINE SEMINAR WILL BE HELD AT AN EARLIER TIME THAN USUAL
Abstract: There is little doubt that literary texts can lead to the kind of self-reflection that is crucial to ethical conduct. Satire, for example, is traditionally thought of as a literary mode with a moral purpose. Nonetheless, the ethical potential of literature is a contested research area especially in the light of the ‘paradox of fiction’ and the phenomenon of narrative empathy but also given the moral role of empathy: the empirical study of literature and empathy seems to suggest that literature is less empathy-enhancing than ordinarily thought. The smallest literary form – microfictions – are often seen as being least capable of eliciting reader’s empathy because of their restricted length. Against such bias, this paper considers whether and the extent to which microfiction can contribute to philosophical work on empathy, inquiring about the possibility of a genuine place for microfiction in motivating empathic effort and positively affecting social and moral behaviour. After all, microfiction, characterised by a distinct relationship of minimal scale to maximal intensity, is uniquely placed to capture people’s cognitive and affective attention; by being responsive to the dynamics of modern life, it has the potential to enrich individual and collective reading experiences, and empathic responses and critical reflections that are precursors of social and moral enhancements.
This internal talk is for Oxford Uehiro Centre members and associates.
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