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© 2020

Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis

Book

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Anna Veprinska
    Pages 1-39
  3. Anna Veprinska
    Pages 41-83
  4. Anna Veprinska
    Pages 85-136
  5. Anna Veprinska
    Pages 137-182
  6. Anna Veprinska
    Pages 183-197
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 199-203

About this book

Introduction

“Anna Veprinska’s Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis adds a brilliant and wonderfully clear-eyed new conceptual lens to understanding not just ‘poetry after crisis,’ but really all representations of violence and suffering—in literature, art, and survivor testimony. In her deep excursus on ‘empathy’ and ‘empathetic dissonance’ as conceptual frames for understanding such art, Veprinska brings a poet’s eye and crystal clear prose to bear on a wide range of aesthetic responses to catastrophe.”

 

James E. Young, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of English and Judaic & Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

This book examines the representation of empathy in contemporary poetry after crisis, specifically poetry after the Holocaust, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and Hurricane Katrina. The text argues that, recognizing both the possibilities and dangers of empathy, the poems under consideration variously invite and refuse empathy, thus displaying what Anna Veprinska terms empathetic dissonance. Veprinska proposes that empathetic dissonance reflects the texts’ struggle with the question of the value and possibility of empathy in the face of the crises to which these texts respond. Examining poems from Charlotte Delbo, Dionne Brand, Niyi Osundare, Charles Reznikoff, Robert Fitterman, Wisława Szymborska, Cynthia Hogue, Claudia Rankine, Paul Celan, Dan Pagis, Lucille Clifton, and Katie Ford, among others, Veprinska considers empathetic dissonance through language, witnessing, and theology. Merging comparative close readings with interdisciplinary theory from philosophy, psychology, cultural theory, history and literary theory, and trauma studies, this book juxtaposes a genocide, a terrorist act, and a natural disaster amplified by racial politics and human disregard in order to consider what happens to empathy in poetry after events at the limits of empathy. 

Anna Veprinska teaches at York University and Seneca College, CA, and has published a book of poems as well as articles in Contemporary Literature and The Bristol Journal of English Studies.


Keywords

empathy studies affect theory memory studies trauma studies Holocaust studies Hurricane Katrina September 11, 2001 9/11 in literature poetry and poetics

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

About the authors

Anna Veprinska teaches at York University and Seneca College, CA, and has published a book of poems as well as articles in Contemporary Literature and The Bristol Journal of English Studies.

Bibliographic information

Reviews

“Anna Veprinska’s Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis adds a brilliant and wonderfully clear-eyed new conceptual lens to understanding not just ‘poetry after crisis,’ but really all representations of violence and suffering—in literature, art, and survivor testimony. In her deep excursus on ‘empathy’ and ‘empathetic dissonance’ as conceptual frames for understanding such art, Veprinska brings a poet’s eye and crystal clear prose to bear on a wide range of aesthetic responses to catastrophe.” (James E. Young, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of English and Judaic & Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA)

“While examining how poets manipulate empathy for a number of productive and problematic reasons, Anna Veprinska asks lot of hard questions about the ethics of empathy. Her ultimate response—that empathy contains an inherent dissonance—provides a crucial nuance to how we respond to cultural tragedies. Wide ranging but meticulously theorized and researched, Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis offers us a new way of thinking about how and why we feel for others.” (Andy Weaver, Associate Professor of English, York University, Canada)

“Rich, complex, and deeply ethical, Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisistraces the important but complicated place of empathy in poetry that grapples with the aftermath of catastrophe in our time. Never losing sight of the real lives affected by the events that the poems contend with, Anna Veprinska’s clear, elegant and thoughtful writing reshapes our understanding of literary empathy, and how it contends with the human implications of such as genocide, terrorist attacks, and natural (but mismanaged) disasters.” (Sara R. Horowitz, Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities, York University, Canada)

“This is a deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking book which demonstrates an extraordinary literary, critical and theoretical range. Anna Veprinska’s discussion of ‘empathetic dissonance’ makes a significant contribution to one of the most important debates in contemporary literary studies.” (Robert Eaglestone, Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)

“A sensitive and clear-eyed reading of limits of poetic empathy in times of crises. Anna Veprinska’s ear for ‘empathetic dissonance’—a term rich in resonance on its own—detects what wild comfort or appropriated feelings can be gleaned from poets who respond to crises near and far as immediate or secondhand witnesses. Full of superb and surprising insights, this book itself is a work of tender empathy.” (Julia Creet, Professor of English, York University, Canada, and author of The Genealogical Sublime (forthcoming, 2020))

“This book is a profound statement on the nature of compassion in poetry. Bold and provocative, elegantly written and incisive, impressively researched and piercing in its perceptions, imaginative and wide-ranging in its implications, this work reflects on how recent poems illuminate responses to catastrophe. It also engages how poetry can serve to deepen explorations into sensitivity and sensibility, into the turmoil and terrors of our lives and times. Poetics becomes here a way of knowing, embodying insight into broken experiences. This is pioneering work. It will surely be the standard for many years on how to understand empathy and poetry together. Veprinska is a superb reader of complicated, demanding works. And her eloquence should serve to provoke and inspire much needed debate on how compassion is vital for our evolution and for our passages through wounding conflicts. We should welcome and be attentive to her original, emphatic voice.” (B.W. Powe, Associate Professor of Literature, York University, Canada, and author of The Charge in the Global Membrane (2019), Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy (2014), and Decoding Dust (2016))