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My project is devoted to untangling the often-misunderstood and misapplied subject of empathy, particularly as it relates to the reading process. I begin with a brief background of the term’s history and the debate surrounding its use by researchers in the fields of both Psychology and Philosophy of Mind. I then apply this critical understanding of a commonly invoked term to a close reading of contemporary novel A Tale for The Time Being by Japanese-American novelist Ruth Ozeki. Dedicated primarily to the fictional story of Nao Yasutani, a teenage girl struggling with her recent move back to Japan after a childhood spent living in America, this text is unique for its use of a character functioning as a “mediating reader”: Nao’s story is told not in ordinary first-person prose, but in the form of entries in a diary which has been discovered and read by a Japanese-American novelist happening to share the name and much of the identity of Ruth Ozeki herself. By examining the role played by empathy in the lives of both Nao and Ruth as characters sharing a relationship entirely mediated by narrative text, I reach an understanding of the reading process as an inherently empathetic act, and an understanding of readerly empathy as the key to seeing beyond the binary implied by the phrase “reader-author relations”.
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DiNozzi-Houser, Janet Lindsay, "Together We’ll Make Magic: Exploring the Relationship Between Empathy and Literature Using Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being”" (2017). Senior Projects Spring 2017. 249.
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