In Empathy and the Strangeness of Fiction, Maria C. Scott offers a new interpretation of how narrative fiction, and in particular the early nineteenth-century French realist novel, “engages” empathy, both among its characters and readers. Many have argued that literary fiction nurtures empathetic response and can thus perform an important social function. The problem, Scott points out, is that it is very complicated to measure this in an experimental way, as a psychologist might wish to do (and as other literary scholars, such as Suzanne Keen, have already shown). Part of the problem, Scott argues, is that empathy is a slippery feeling with two related but antagonistic facets: a propensity to affective sharing, on the one hand, and a more reflective mind-reading ability (what cognitive scientists call “Theory of Mind”), on the other....

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