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Frans Willem Korsten

Empathy and Violence: The Chiasma of Politics and Law (17.04.2018)

My argument starts with two different readings of George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda by two scholars who have a radically different idea on the force and goal of empathic reading: Martha Nussbaum and Sara Ahmed. The former bases her argument on a human subject that is coherent, stable and through an ethical mode of reading literature is able to place herself in the position of someone else. The latter takes willful, unstable, swerving subjects as her point of departure, who find themselves oppressed in such a way that the very idea of their having a will of their own is made impossible. Nussbaum is looking for an underpinning of justice on some sort of common human ground, while Ahmed accepts the irreconcilability of positions, or the principal impossibility of a common ground. Focusing on the ways in which both authors employ radically different strategies of empathy, I ask what the goals of empathic reading could be in a juridico-political context. Here, I trace a chiastic relation between politics and law that is of relevance at times in which politics is turning more and more into a power game propelled by emotions and the force of law is threatened by parties demanding that their emotions be served.


Main Research Interests

  • Rhetoric (Classical and Modern)
  • Literature and Politics
  • Politico-Cultural Organization of Europe

Publications (selected)

  • “Poet/healer/judge: Literature as cicatrix – the case of Maria Dermoût’”. In: Grave, Jaap; Honings, Rick; Noak, Bettina (eds.): Illness and Literature in the Low Contries: From the Middle Ages until the 21st Century. Göttingen: V&R Unipres 2016, 181-198.

  • “The comedic sublime in a dynamic of worlds: the work of Frans Hals in a Dutch Baroque”. In: Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art 8(2): 1-24, 2016.

  • With Zeeuw T.L. de: “Towards a New Judicial Scene for Humans and Animals: Two Modes of Hypocrisy”. In: Law and Literature 27(1): 23-47, 2015.

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