Empathy at the confluence of neuroscience and empirical literary studies

M. Burke, Anezka Kuzmicova, Anne Mangen, Theresa Schilhab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The objective of this article is to review extant empirical studies of empathy in narrative reading in light of (a) contemporary literary theory, and (b) neuroscientific studies of empathy, and to discuss how a closer interplay between neuroscience and literary studies may enhance our understanding of empathy in narrative reading. An introduction to some of the philosophical roots of empathy is followed by tracing its application in contemporary literary theory, in which scholars have pursued empathy with varying degrees of conceptual precision, often within the context of embodied/enactive cognition. The presentation of empirical literary studies of empathy is subsequently contextualized by an overview of psychological and neuroscientific aspects of empathy. Highlighting points of convergence and divergence, the discussion illustrates how findings of empirical literary studies align with recent neuroscientific research. The article concludes with some prospects for future empirical research, suggesting that digitization may contribute to advancing the scientific knowledge of empathy in narrative reading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-41
Number of pages36
JournalScientific Study of Literature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • embodiment
  • empathy
  • literature
  • neuroscience
  • Theory of Mind


Dive into the research topics of 'Empathy at the confluence of neuroscience and empirical literary studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this