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Chapter 6 - The Dynamics of Empathic Response:

Simulation and Inference in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 April 2022

Patrick Colm Hogan
Affiliation:
University of Connecticut
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Summary

In keeping with the pattern established in the first part of the book, the sixth chapter turns to a literary development of some key theoretical points, in this case examining how A Midsummer Night’s Dream guides empathic responses of audience members. More precisely, the processes of empathic understanding and emotion are highly complex in any real-world activity. That complexity involves repeated cycles of perception, recollection, inference, and simulation that are inseparable from one another, regularly providing the conditions for one another’s operation. (Simulation is a quasi-perceptual imagination of particular causal sequences that may be hypothetical and/or counterfactual, or they may simply serve to fill in unobserved aspects of an ongoing situation.) All these inferential and simulative processes are on display in our spontaneous and elective, automatic and effortful forms of empathic processing of literature. Through the analysis of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the chapter illustrates some aspects of this complexity as it bears on empathic response.

Type
Chapter
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Literature and Moral Feeling
A Cognitive Poetics of Ethics, Narrative, and Empathy
, pp. 182 - 196
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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