WRIT 114.008 | The Politics of Empathy
Amy Monticello | Fall 2013 | MW 12:00-1:50 PM & F 12:00-12:50 PM
In this course, we will examine what we sometimes take to be a given of humanity: our capacity for empathy. The ability to recognize the emotions of another sentient being often precedes feelings of sympathy and compassion. But how does empathy work in the digital age? How empathically can we communicate through the mediation of screens? How do we determine which causes to promote on our Facebook pages, or which Kickstarter campaigns to donate to? Getting people to care has always been a rhetorical act; compassion requires convincing. But what happens when our ability to identify with others goes viral, or becomes an Internet meme? What are the limits of empathic connection in an age of unprecedented accessibility to others' experiences? Are we all really Trayvon Martin? We will examine a wide variety of texts, both scholarly and colloquial, including journal articles, TED talks, nonprofit campaigns, political speeches, advice columns, personal essays, photo essays, NPR podcasts, and YouTube videos, to name a few.