Macquarie University
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Between oneself and the other: empathy, dialogism, and feminist narratology in two novels by Margaret Atwood

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posted on 2022-03-28, 13:02 authored by Lauren Fisher
This thesis will propose a model of feminist narratology that is informed by insights offered by cognitive literary studies, intersectionality, and Bakhtinian dialogism. Focusing on empathy between women as a core concern, I examine the thematic and discursive treatment of this concept in two novels by Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye (1989) and The Robber Bride (1993). I particularly emphasise the novels’ creation of an active reading position, which is facilitated by the interaction and tension between elements of story and discourse. As the novels’ female protagonists learn to empathise with women whom they see as Other while simultaneously respecting the autonomous selfhood of these women, readers of the texts are positioned to identify emotionally with the protagonists while also viewing them from a more distanced standpoint. Through the balancing of emotional closeness with intellectual distance, the evocation and subsequent problematisation of schemata, and the metafictive treatment of storytelling as an authorial construction of self and other, these novels engage both the emotive and the cognitive elements of narrative empathy and also position the reader to reflect actively upon her own viewpoint. This formulation of narratological dialogic empathy, I contend, is thus an appropriate model to reflect and reinforce prevailing feminist philosophy, which combines empathetic understanding with respect for difference and autonomy.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. Closeness and distance -- 2. Scripts and schemata -- 3. Self and other -- Conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 67-82

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Rebecca Giggs


Copyright Lauren Fisher 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (vii, 82 pages)

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