Empathy (Due: 2/20/2013)


An Interdisciplinary Conference

April 26-27, 2013, Yale University, New Haven, CT

The Department of Comparative Literature at Yale University would like to invite submissions for the Annual Graduate Student Conference:

The topic of empathy has been the recurring focus of numerous debates across a diverse range of disciplines, including literature, philosophy, political theory, theology, psychology, and cognitive science. We would like to draw on these debates and trace the evolution of the idea of empathy from an aesthetic concept into a philosophical strategy for understanding other minds and into a possible driving force in politics. We wish to incorporate timeless and timely theories that explore ways in which the affective quality of art and literature contributes to their ability to inspire human connections across cultural and geopolitical boundaries and deepens our understanding of human experience. How can concepts of empathy developed through philosophy and the arts be applied to the socio-political realm? How do literary, philosophical, and psychological discussions of empathy contribute to our understanding of human agency on the level of the everyday and in a broader political context?

Of particular interest are papers that encourage a re-thinking of the notion of empathy vis à vis current politics and theories of care and social welfare and that tease out the relationship between empathy and altruism in democratic theory. Ultimately, is it possible to articulate a sufficient philosophy of empathy as a potential remedy for the failure of ideologies and political systems to bring about effective solutions to human conflict?

Topics for discussion may include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Representations of empathy in literature;
  • Genre and empathy;
  • Empathy and rhetoric;
  • Writing and theorizing alterity;
  • Empathy and aesthetic theory;
  • Empathy and history;
  • Political theories of empathy;
  • Ethics of relationality;
  • Gender and sexuality;
  • Empathy and the law;
  • Empathy and technology;
  • Theologies of alterity;
  • Other minds;
  • Empathy and the experience of nature;
  • Empathy and animals;
  • Childhood and development;
  • Empathy and psychoanalysis;
  • Pedagogies of empathy

Presentations may not exceed 20 minutes.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 350 words to empathyconference@gmail.com by February 20, 2013. Please include paper title, name, institution, department, email & phone. Final papers should be submitted no later than two weeks prior to the conference. Open to graduate students only.