In this episode, I interview Anna Veprinska about her book Empathy in Contemporary Poetry after Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) recently published by Palgrave Macmillan. In it, Veprinska examines the representation of empathy in contemporary poetry that responds to moments of traumatic crisis, focusing specifically on the Holocaust, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and Hurricane Katrina. Rather than taking a straightforward approach that uncritically heralds empathy, Veprinska explores the various techniques poets use that invite and refuse empathy, thereby displaying empathetic dissonance, a term that Veprinska coins to describe the struggle poets and poetry have with the question of the value and possibility of empathy in the face of the crises to which they respond.
Veprinska’s text is anchored by a tripartite structure of negation in which she explores the unsaid, the unhere, and the ungod, all of which deal with the internally fractured and dissonant nature of poetic empathy. By mingling textual analysis with philosophy, psychology, history, and trauma studies, Empathy in Contemprary Poetry after Crisis seeks to sketch out and approach the limits of empathy and to show how poetry is uniquely situated as a medium through which we can be with each other in the aftermath of world-altering events.
Britt Edelen is a Ph.D. student in English at Duke University. He focuses on modernism and the relationship(s) between language, philosophy, and literature. You can find him on Twitter or send him an email.