In Sympathy with Narrative Characters

Alessandro Giovannelli
Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (Winter 2009) 67(1), 83-95

Sympathy, as a mechanism of engagement with others (versus sympathy as an emotion), must be understood as a complex phenomenon, paradigmatically comprising: (a) ’empathy’ and (b) a form of imaginative ‘concern’. Sympathy is, then, complex and multidimensional. Hence, this analysis supports a sophisticated ‘pluralism’ in the explanation of our engagement with narrative characters. Yet, the analysis also suggests a somewhat unified account of the different responses to narrative characters, and of those responses’ complexity and multidimensionality, since a range of our narrative responses are shown to involve the imagination and, in particular, to involve empathy and other forms of perspective-taking.