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The Empathy Exams

Published at Books & Culture in May 2014.

Empathy emerges as fraught; it can’t exist solely as a virtue because of the ways in which we unevenly practice it. Jamison models empathy while simultaneously scrutinizing and analyzing cultural expectations of empathy. She distrusts her own impulses and reactions to those she writes about. Who do we have empathy for? Who do we deny empathy to? Is empathy finite? What does it mean to open ourselves up to other people’s pain? Can empathy be narcissistic?