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Chapter 8 - The Critical Empathy of Angels in America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 April 2022

Patrick Colm Hogan
Affiliation:
University of Connecticut
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Summary

The seventh chapter follows the pattern of extending and specifying theoretical points through the close interpretation of a literary work, in this case Tony Kushner’s widely admired, award-winning treatment of the AIDS crisis, Angels in America. This chapter also develops a concept of “critical empathy,” designed to respond to some potential problems raised by critics of empathy. Critical empathy involves effortful compensation for empathic biases (e.g., the saliency of the target or his or her in-group status). It also involves attention to ameliorating the condition of the targets of empathy, rather than brooding on shared emotional pain. In relation to these points, the chapter articulates a distinction between normative outcomes (the objective conditions that we would judge to be consistent with ethical imperatives, whatever their motivations) and ethical choices (the decisions that derive from ethical motivations, whatever their results). Additionally, the chapter considers the dynamics and ethical implications of guilt, shame, and attachment bonding.

Type
Chapter
Information
Literature and Moral Feeling
A Cognitive Poetics of Ethics, Narrative, and Empathy
, pp. 242 - 259
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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