Art and Empathy

TDM 182A
David Michalek
2018 Fall
Thursdays, 10:30am-1:15pm
Location: TBD
Class Capacity: 20 Consent Required: Instructor
Empathy has provoked equal measures of excitement and controversy in recent years. For some, empathy is crucial to understanding others, helping us bridge social and cultural differences. For others, empathy is nothing but a misguided assumption of access to the minds of others. Despite these critiques, discussions of empathy can be found everywhere these days, from politics to popular culture. Barack Obama used it frequently throughout his first presidential campaign and first term in office, arguing that the United States suffered an “empathy deficit.” He later ignited a national debate about the role of the judiciary by declaring empathy as one of his criteria for appointing judges. In the current age of continuous global conflict, empathy seems to offer a ray of hope, leading some to claim that it is our empathetic capacities that make us human and upon which all social life and organization depend.

The course will focus on forms of that art are celebrated for their ability to place the lives and situations of others before us, inviting us to imaginatively enter other worlds and entertain experiences other than our own. It will begin by tracing empathy’s genealogy through aesthetic theory, philosophy, psychology, and performance theory, and then move on to consider the role that empathy plays in various forms of art including the LIVE ARTS of Theater, Performance Art, Dance and Music, and the MEDIA ARTS of Photography and Film. Each student will be challenged to create a work of art (in any of the medium) with the consideration of the role that empathy might play in it.

This course will be taught by TDM Visiting Lecturer David Michalek.