EALC 125 | Writing the Limits of Empathy

2021 Fall | MON 2–5 PM | COURSE #25973 | UNITS: 4

Alan Tansman & Yisheng Tang

How far can we go into the minds and bodies of others? How strongly can we sense their presence? When, and why, do we hit a wall separating us from the world beyond us? In this course, we experiment — through a number of genres and media from around the globe — with the art of writing (and thinking and feeling) empathetically. These genres and media include diaries, fiction, poetry, editorial, letter writing, reportage, description (of nature, art, emotions, psychic states, etc.), film, video, and photography.

The weekly writing assignments require acts of imaginative identification through the imitation of other people’s writings and the assumption of others’ points of view…even when those identifications are painful or distasteful.

Students also keep two journals, making at least one entry per day, no matter how short: 1. a “cognitive journal” of objective observations of oneself, excluding analysis; and 2. a journal of thoughts about a stranger or strangers one observes throughout the term. The final writing assignment is an analytical essay about these two journals, which is workshopped in small groups moderated by the instructor and GSI.