Event date: Friday 16 December 2011, 12.00 p.m. – 1.00 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room
“Refiguring Empathy in the Contemporary Novel: Ian McEwan’s Saturday” given by Dr. Anne Whitehead (University of Newcastle upon Tyne)
“In this paper, I consider Ian McEwan’s Saturday in the light of recent interest in the intersection of literature and science. McEwan’s novel has been hailed as groundbreaking in bringing together literature and neuroscience, in particular, to forge a new novel of consciousness that is embedded in our knowledge of the brain rather than of the mind. I propose to refocus discussion of the novel by paying attention to McEwan’s interest in evolutionary discourses, and particularly his engagement with Paul Ekman’s influential writing on facial expression. Drawing on Ruth Leys’s critique of Ekman’s work, my paper will attempt to follow through some of the implications of this discourse for a reading ofSaturday. Particular points of interest will include the novel’s relation to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway; the key scenes with Baxter; and the novel as a narrative of 9/11.”
Anne Whitehead is Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature and Theory at Newcastle University, UK. She has publishedTrauma Fiction (Edinburgh University Press, 2004) and Memory: New Critical Idiom (Routledge, 2008), in addition to co-editing W. G. Sebald: A Critical Companion (Edinburgh University Press, 2004) andTheories of Memory: A Reader (Edinburgh University Press/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). She has published on trauma and literature in a range of journals, including Modern Fiction Studies,Textual Practice and Contemporary Literature. Her current work is interested in exploring how contemporary fictional representations of the medical doctor negotiate questions of empathy.