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Coplan, Amy, , . Caring about characters: Three determinants of emotional engagement
2006, Film and Philosophy 10:1.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Introduction: Western philosophers at least as far back as Plato and Aristotle have been interested in question concerning narrative art: what it is, why it engages us, and how engagement with it affects us. An important part of the philosophical discussion has focused on the relationship between narrative art and emotion, for many have thought the power and influence of anarrative art comes primarily form its ability to arouse strong emotions. In this paper I focus on one type of narrative art: narrative fiction film. In many ways the film viewing experience is ideal for the purpose of promoting emotional engagement. Due to the nature of narrative fiction film and the structure of the viewing experience, watching and experiencing film puts us in a unique position to become cognitively and emotionally engaged while remaining aware of the fact that the object of our engagement is fictional…

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Coplan, Amy, , . Empathic engagement with narrative fictions
2004, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (2):141-152.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: There is still little consensus among scholars regarding how best to characterize the relationship between readers of fictional narratives and the characters in those narratives. Part of the problem is that many of the explanatory concepts used in the debate – concepts like identification and empathy – are somewhat vague or ambiguous. In this article, I consider some recent relevant empirical research on text processing and narrative comprehension and argue for a pluralist account of character engagement, in which empathy plays an important role. In Section I, I review several empirical studies that strongly suggest that readers often adopt the perspective of one or more of the characters in fictional narratives. In Section II, I turn to the concept of empathy and provide an explanation of empathy based on models and research in empirical psychology. I focus in particular on self-other differentiation, a critical feature of empathy that has been underemphasized in the literature. Next I discuss two psychological phenomena that are closely related to empathy and often confused or conflated with it: emotional contagion and sympathy. In the final section of the paper, I employ the account of empathy developed in Section II to address Noel Carroll’s objections to the view that readers typically empathize with fictional characters.

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