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Can Literature Foster Empathy

Erin Trusty, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Can I teach empathy through literature? Can instructors evoke empathy through teaching transportation into literature and character identification? Teaching the whole child, the child with feelings and emotions, along with attending to the child’s academic needs, is really what I set out to do. Community matters, and what holds communities together, in part, is the empathy we have toward each other. My daughters struggled in school and that reminded me that grief and hurt are negotiated differently by adolescents. It also showed how some students were much kinder and more understanding of them than others. As an American in a small city in contemporary America, I have watched the coarsening of discourse. We are more suspicious of each other and more distant and distrustful than we were in previous years. That's a hard way to live and it is an impediment to joining together to solve problems that we desperately need to solve. It is more apparent now than during the lives of Horace Mann, Catherine Beecher, John Dewey, or even Paulo Freire (who died within my lifetime). It’s important d to know how to see each other and to understand and respect each other across differences. I am a teacher. As I look at the challenges before me and consider why we teach literature and the needed role of adult teachers in adolescents' lives, I realize that I have the power to make a difference. I can help young people in my charge gain an understanding of how to think about themselves and each other, carry themselves and view the world in more empathetic ways. This dissertation starts with a biography and community experience, but it is also the culmination of an academic and professional journey.

Subject Area

Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Trusty, Erin, "Can Literature Foster Empathy" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30000121.
https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI30000121

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