Cognitive approaches to cultural texts are increasingly gaining currency in contemporary debates in literary and cultural studies; yet they have often been criticized for focusing too narrowly on the interaction between a text and a single, highly abstract reader, and for disregarding both actual readers and the larger historical, political, and cultural context in which a text is produced and consumed. During its runtime, the Narrative Encounters Project aimed at bridging some of the perceived gaps between cognitive narratology and more context and politically oriented approaches. The project used a cognitive approach to explore the narrative strategies employed in a range of ethnic American literary production—specifically by African American, Chicanx and Muslim American writers—with a special emphasis on empathy, affect, and emotion. The central aim of the project was to develop a cognitive approach that helps us to investigate the role of empathy and emotion in the literary mediation of ethnic and cultural difference and to gain a better understanding of what larger cultural repercussions such imaginary engagement may have in the contemporary political climate of the United States.
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Header Photo Credit: Juan Alvarez-Ajamil