Literature on empathy has enormously increased in the last decades, especially from the point of view of neuroscience and neuroaesthetics. Scholars, however, have been focussing especially on the ethical dimension of empathy: on the identification with the victims which is also highlighted by the political use of this concept (the famous Obama’s speech). This paper focuses instead on the empathy with negative characters, which can have a strong cathartic and social function, as a discharge of destructive drives, and is often linked to the representation of fear and other strong emotions. The paper will analyze the intersection between negative empathy and fear through various examples taken from different historical contexts, literary genres and media: Shakespeare’s Macbeth and its rich reception (especially Verdi’s operatic adaptation), Dostoevskij’s The Possessed, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, the high quality TV fiction Breaking Bad, highlighting their focus on the themes of power, war, social terror and anxiety.

Negative empathy, Fear, Catharsis. A Transmedial Itinerary

FUSILLO, MASSIMO
2020

Abstract

Literature on empathy has enormously increased in the last decades, especially from the point of view of neuroscience and neuroaesthetics. Scholars, however, have been focussing especially on the ethical dimension of empathy: on the identification with the victims which is also highlighted by the political use of this concept (the famous Obama’s speech). This paper focuses instead on the empathy with negative characters, which can have a strong cathartic and social function, as a discharge of destructive drives, and is often linked to the representation of fear and other strong emotions. The paper will analyze the intersection between negative empathy and fear through various examples taken from different historical contexts, literary genres and media: Shakespeare’s Macbeth and its rich reception (especially Verdi’s operatic adaptation), Dostoevskij’s The Possessed, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, the high quality TV fiction Breaking Bad, highlighting their focus on the themes of power, war, social terror and anxiety.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11697/152775
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