Changing Attitudes and Fostering Empathy through Literature: The Human-Animal Bond and Sympathetic Imagination

Dr. Barbara Hardy Beierl
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Imaginative literature which features animal characters conveys the existence of a human-animal bond, thus becoming an effective vehicle through which to support both psychological and cultural shifts in the reader. The psychological shift produces greater empathy in the reader; the cultural shift results in a more civilized sensibility toward animals in the larger society. In order to understand how this process occurs, we need to analyze literary works which drive, effect, and illustrate this psychological dynamic. In so doing, the reader will move through the stages of psychological identification, sympathetic imagination, and empathy—all part of what philosophers and psychologists call simulation theory—which realize the workings of the human-animal bond. Some of the following writers of imaginative literature who may be included in my paper, among many others, are as follows: Aesop and La Fontaine; Miguel de Cervantes; Anna Sewell; Jack London; Richard Adams; Juan Ramon Jimenez; Mary O’Hara; Arthur Vanderbilt; William Kotzwinkle; Adolfo Bioy Casares

Keywords: Human-Animal Bond, Empathy, Sympathetic Imagination, Psychological Identification, Imaginative Literature
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr. Barbara Hardy Beierl

History and Literature, Harvard University (Retired)

I am an independent scholar and a retire professor of English and American Literature and Languages. My Bachelor of Arts degree is from the City University of New York-City College. My Master of Arts degree is from San Francisco State University. My Doctor of Philosophy is from Wayne State University. I have also worked in publishing in New York City. I have taught at the college and university levels for many years, including the City University of New York system and Harvard University. My major academic work has been in English and Continental Renaissance studies, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, and twentieth-century English and American literature. My publications have been in the areas of Shakespeare (book, 2 vols); seventeenth-century English poetry, contributor); civic education in the humanities (book, chapter on character education in literature); sundry articles, conference papers, workshops, and performances). I have become interested in examining the ability of the human-animal bond, as seen in imaginative literature, to foster positive attitudinal change toward animals by humans in everyday life.

Ref: I07P0272