Empathy — our ability to feel for others — is what allows us to care for each other, to form communities and friendships, to imagine each other’s feelings, to commiserate over each other’s pain and share in each other’s joy. This ability is what makes literature and drama work.
Empathy is what provides much of the tension and engagement that one finds in good literature — and according to a new study publicized in the New York Times, reading literary fiction increases empathy. That study has proven controversial. However, there are a wealth of less-publicized studies that do show a link between fiction reading and empathy.
Graduate Student, Cambridge University