Empathy : narrative empathy and children's literature

Mallan, Kerry M. (2013) Empathy : narrative empathy and children's literature. In Wu, Yan, Mallan, Kerry, & McGills, Roderick (Eds.) (Re)imagining the World : Children's Literature's Response to Changing Times. Springer, Dordecht ; London, pp. 105-114.

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The term empathy has only existed in English for a little over a hundred years, but the idea of feeling with another person is an old one. Because of its perceived connection to moral behaviour, empathy and its development are of great interest to educators, policy makers, psychologists, and philosophers. Reading children’s literature is often considered important for developing (among other things) children’s ethical and empathic understandings of society and its people. However, claims as to the impact of reading on readers’ ability to become more empathic, tolerant, and better people are divided. While many readers may attribute positive influences that authors and texts have had on shaping their attitudes and actions, there is no guarantee that a desirable affective and cognitive response will follow the reading experience. The complexity of readers and texts refuses to be reduced to simple universal statements about the capacity of narrative empathy to create a particular kind of empathic reader or person: fiction that engages a reader with the emotional plight of a character does not necessarily translate into actions in the real world towards people who are similarly suffering, marginalized, or victimized. This chapter asks: Does children’s literature foster empathy? There are two implicit features of this question: one concerns narrative empathy; the other concerns empathic reader response. The discussion will focus on how a selection of ‘multicultural’ picture books attempts to create narrative empathy by focussing on cultural and spatial differences.

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ID Code: 61085
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: empathy, children's literature, children and youth research centre
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-36760-1_9
ISBN: 9783642367601
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LITERARY STUDIES (200500) > Other Literatures in English (200508)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 Springer
Deposited On: 03 Jul 2013 22:40
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2016 23:16

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