Stories in the skin: empathy, embodiment and the novel

Geen, E (2018) Stories in the skin: empathy, embodiment and the novel. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

Abstract

'The Listening' (Geen, 2018) and the critical piece that accompanies it examine the entanglement of the body, empathy and narrative. 'The Listening' is set in a much changed future Bristol where the race of "God Children" rule over the "Ffieth" and magic, of a sort, is considered possible. The novel follows its agender protagonist Asha in its fight to take control over the narratives that are imposed on it, including the stories of its mother and societal discourses on gender and race. Through Asha's struggles, the novel offers an account of how narratives can impose upon the body as a form of violence but also how stories, and the sharing of them, can be an act of healing empathy. Its exploration of the uncanny territory between the body and language contributes to the field of speculative literature by offering a contemporary response to classic texts, such as Ursula Le Guin's 'A Wizard of Earthsea' (1968) and 'The Left Hand of Darkness' (1969). The accompanying ficto-critical work gives an account of the research that informed 'The Listening' and acts as an analysis of the novel's treatment of empathy and the body. The work contributes to the dialogue on the ability of literature to evoke empathy by arguing that the process is not just a cognitive one, as is widely assumed, but is also embodied. Suggestions are made as to how a novelist can apply these ideas to their craft. The thesis as a whole can be understood as an investigation of the power of words over the body and the power of the body over words, as both empathy and violence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Note:

Thesis supervised by Prof. Maggie Gee.

Keywords: empathy, violence, the body, gender, speculative fiction, Bristol, creative writing, language, narrative, identity, Ursula Le Guin
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 22 May 2019 15:39
Last Modified: 22 May 2019 15:58
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