No Thumbnail Available



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Department of English, NTNU


This paper addresses the underrepresentation of autobiographical texts in studies of narrative empathy by drawing attention to the humanitarian narrative as an apt example of this conjunction, given its reliance on the work of empathetic identification. I propose a reading of Jamaica Kincaid’s My Brother (1997) and Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying (2007) as humanitarian narratives which, through their appeals to empathy, ask readers to recognize their fundamental sameness and shared vulnerability with the distant others at the center of the texts, and also seek to expose and redress their deprivation of individual rights. The pairing of these texts offers opportunities to scrutinize the complex workings of empathetic identification by looking at, for example, how certain narrative representational choices, themes or techniques potentially favor or block its construction, as well as how the relational dynamics specific to familial memoirs impinge upon their capacity to elicit empathetic responses in readers. Both authors exploit the richness and generic undefinability of autobiography, with its double referential and anti-mimetic impulse to generate empathy, combining the impact of the personal story with the effects of narrative techniques ranging from characterization and transportation to repetition or the epiphany.