Empathy in Language, Literature, and Society | Reykjavik, April 4-6, 2014

The goal of the conference is to shed light on various unexplored and contested aspects of empathy. Although the word ‘empathy’ found its way into the field of psychology just over one hundred years ago, philosophers and artists have focused on emotions related to this term for centuries. The vitality of research into this phenomenon during the past 15 years is mirrored by its increasing prominence in public discourse in the media and society. This is clearly manifested, for example, by discussion of empathy as it relates to people’s reactions towards climate change

The writings of neurologists, philosophers, psychologists and others on the relationship between empathy and mirror neurons call for a new approach to the question of how language and literature evoke empathy. Literary scholars and psychologists have worked together and put considerable effort into empathy research, but linguists have played only a minor role in that enterprise. Collaboration of researchers in these areas is important, however, if we are to understand how language, narrative, social structure, and culture may interact with one another, either to evoke empathy or suppress it.”