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Sympathy for the devil

Sympathy for the Devil In his Poetics, Aristotle proposed that we typically do not sympathize or empathize with a completely blameless character nor with a reckless villain devoid of all virtues. However, do narrative art forms indeed preferably portray characters who occupy the middle ground between these extremes? Is there not actually a bias in favor of dark characters? Clearly, morally blameless characters and lives have barely ever been at the center of novels. Diabolic characters, by contrast, and great criminals have powerfully captured the mind of readers. If so, how does this relate to recent revivals of classical claims that literature is a school of empathy and, by implication, makes us more sociable? Our study will investigate the attraction of criminal and diabolic characters against the background of the empathy hype in current studies on reading literature. Pubblications: 2017 Rebekka Kricheldorf, Homo Empathicus, (trad., intr by M. Salgaro), CuePress, Bologna. 2016 Sopcak, P., Salgaro, M. & J.B. Herrmann (eds.). Transdisciplinary Approaches to Literature and Empathy, special «Issue of Scientific Study of Literature» (SSOL) 6/1. 2018 Natural Selection in a Worldwide Economic Crisis: The Extinction of Homo oeconomicus in Rebekka Kricheldorf’s Homo Empathicus, accepted for publication in «Oxford German Studies». 2018 (with Benjamin VanTourhout) Why does Frank Underwood look at us? Contemporary heroes suggest the need of a turn in the conceptualization of fictional empathy, accepted for publication in «Journal of literary theory», JLT, 12:2, Participants: Winfried Menninghaus, Valentin Wagner, Massimo Salgaro
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Massimo Salgaro


Massimo Salgaro
Associate Professor
Simone Rebora
Temporary Professor
External components
Winfried Menninghaus
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics Frankfurt
Valentin Wagner
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics Frankfurt
Topic Research area
Estetica e letteratura Letteratura inglese e letterature anglofone
Critical Theory & Poetics
The scientific experiment Letterature tedesca e austriaca
Germanic Science Fiction, Literature and Science
Neuroaesthetics Letterature tedesca e austriaca
Germanic Critical Theory & Poetics
Stilometry Letterature tedesca e austriaca
Germanic Critical Theory & Poetics


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