Against the Grain

Does Fiction Promote Empathy?

Do fictional narratives, like those found in novels, plays, and films, promote empathy? Does emotion-based empathy spur people to alleviate suffering in the real world? Namwali Serpell calls into question much of the conventional thinking about empathy in relation to art. Drawing on thinkers like Arendt and Brecht, Serpell points to fiction’s capacity to enlarge our understanding to encompass the positions of others.

Namwali Serpell, “The Banality of Empathy” NYR Daily

Namwali Serpell, The Old Drift Hogarth, 2019

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