Graduiertenschule für Geisteswissenschaften Göttingen (GSGG)

Spring School "The Role of Empathy and Emotion in Understanding Fiction"


March 27-31 2017 at the GSGG (Friedländer Weg 2)


The Spring School is funded by the VolkswagenStiftung.




The aim of this Spring School is to investigate the relationship between understanding and responding affectively to fictions from the perspectives of philosophy, literary studies, and psychology: do emotions and empathy play a decisive role in understanding fiction, and if so, how?

Tackling this question poses challenges that are both theoretical and practical in nature. For example, there exist several competing theories in cognitive psychology and philosophy that conceptualize emotions and their affective and cognitive components differently, and these theories make different claims as to their empirical validity. Within literary studies it is customary to distinguish different levels of a literary work that may present themselves as objects of either empathy or the emotions, and there are different theoretical and methodological approaches to interpreting fictions accordingly. Any investigation of the role of empathy and the emotions in understanding fictions therefore has to combine theoretical and methodological know-how on both text analysis and reader responses. As philosophers, literary scholars and psychologists will take part in this Spring School, it will provide an opportunity for both empirically and theoretically oriented researchers to discuss how emotions and empathy can be said to play a decisive role in literary comprehension. Confirmed keynote speakers are Jenefer Robinson (University of Cincinnati), Suzanne Keen (Washington and Lee University), Melanie Green (The State University of New York), Gregory Currie (University of York), Derek Matravers (The Open University), Arthur Jacobs (Freie Universität Berlin).

For further questions please contact the organizers:

  • Christiana Werner
  • Tilmann Köppe
  • Daniele Panizza


  • Registration for participation is closed. There will be a public lecture by Prof. Arthur Jacobs (FU Berlin) on Tuesday 6:15 pm at the GSGG.