Narrative empathy in Toni Morrison's Beloved and Home. An approach to teaching these works in upper secondary school in Norway
The following thesis uses Toni Morrison’s two novels Beloved and Home to demonstrate how multiple narrative perspectives can be used to prevent as well as evoke reader’s empathy. Furthermore, the thesis suggests using her work in upper secondary school to teach students about how narrative perspectives might manipulate empathy, which can enable them to reflect upon how different perspectives affect them emotionally in real life. Morrison’s works contain multiple focalizers and complex narrative structures, which complicate readers’ empathy. Morrison challenges the ethical stands of her readers through the representation of complicated traumatic events in Beloved and Home. Judylyn S. Ryan writes that Morrison’s techniques “add complexity to the reader’s interrogation and interpretation of motivation” (Ryan 159), and this thesis uses her novels to show how she questions the limitation of human empathy. The research in the field of narrative empathy is expanding, and academics from different fields disagree about two central questions when it comes to narrative empathy; (1) whether or not narrative empathy leads to altruistic behaviour, and (2) which narrative techniques are most effective for the cultivation of reader’s empathy. Suzanne Keen’s Empathy and the Novel and Martha Nussbaum’s Cultivating Humanity and Upheavals of Thought are the thesis’ major theoretical sources. Whereas Nussbaum considers narrative imagination as essential to the process of becoming a more empathetic citizen, Keen is more critical of theories confirming that narrative empathy leads to altruistic behaviour. Keen claims that the lack of empiric research in these approaches weakens the empathy-altruism theory. The thesis’ didactical approach concerns the importance of literature when teaching upper secondary students in Norway. It argues that analysing narrative perspectives used for manipulation of reader’s empathy, by either enforcing or problematizing it, is important for awareness of these manipulations in real life as well.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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Copyright 2015 The Author(s)
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