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Keen Publishes Chapter on Empathy and Affect in the Law


Suzanne Keen
Suzanne Keen

Dean of Faculty Suzanne Keen’s chapter, “Affect and Empathy Studies,” has been published in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities, edited by Simon Stern, Maksymilian Del Mar, and Bernadette Meyler (Oxford, 2019; online publication January 2020). DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190695620.001.0001

Her chapter discusses two domains of research into and theorizing about human emotions of interest to legal theorists and practitioners in the law. Since Keen's expertise lies in English literature, narrative theory, and interdisciplinary empathy studies, she offers legal readers basic definitions of the terms “empathy” and “affect” and suggestions about the relevance of affect and empathy studies to law.

She adds cautions about those applications’ limitations and liabilities. Keen argues that all varieties of empathy, with their affordances and limitations, are resources for the rhetorical arts of persuasion. Writers and practitioners in the law, she suggests, should alertly consider the roles that empathy and affect play in the law, especially when legal abstractions, doctrines, and documents that evoke strong feelings are accorded the imaginative status of persons by means of Einfühlung, or empathetic projection.

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